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J Cell Mol Med. 2009 Oct;13(10):4192-204. doi: 10.1111/j.1582-4934.2008.00611.x.

Haemopexin affects iron distribution and ferritin expression in mouse brain.

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Molecular Biotechnology Center, University of Torino, Torino, Italy.


Haemopexin (Hx) is an acute phase plasma glycoprotein, mainly produced by the liver and released into plasma where it binds heme with high affinity and delivers it to the liver. This system provides protection against free heme-mediated oxidative stress, limits access by pathogens to heme and contributes to iron homeostasis by recycling heme iron. Hx protein has been found in the sciatic nerve, skeletal muscle, retina, brain and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Recently, a comparative proteomic analysis has shown an increase of Hx in CSF from patients with Alzheimer's disease, thus suggesting its involvement in heme detoxification in brain. Here, we report that Hx is synthesised in brain by the ventricular ependymal cells. To verify whether Hx is involved in heme scavenging in brain, and consequently, in the control of iron level, iron deposits and ferritin expression were analysed in cerebral regions known for iron accumulation. We show a twofold increase in the number of iron-loaded oligodendrocytes in the basal ganglia and thalamus of Hx-null mice compared to wild-type controls. Interestingly, there was no increase in H- and L-ferritin expression in these regions. This condition is common to several human neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease in which iron loading is not associated with an adequate increase in ferritin expression. However, a strong reduction in the number of ferritin-positive cells was observed in the cerebral cortex of Hx-null animals. Consistent with increased iron deposits and inadequate ferritin expression, malondialdehyde level and Cu-Zn superoxide dismutase-1 expression were higher in the brain of Hx-null mice than in that of wild-type controls. These data demonstrate that Hx plays an important role in controlling iron distribution within brain, thus suggesting its involvement in iron-related neurodegenerative diseases.

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