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Biochimie. 2009 Oct;91(10):1331-4. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2009.05.003. Epub 2009 May 22.

Ferritin accumulation under iron scarcity in Drosophila iron cells.

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School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, E1 4NS London, UK.


Ferritins are highly stable, multi-subunit protein complexes with iron-binding capacities that reach 4500 iron atoms per ferritin molecule. The strict dependence of cellular physiology on an adequate supply of iron cofactors has likely been a key driving force in the evolution of ferritins as iron storage molecules. The insect intestine has long been known to contain cells that are responsive to dietary iron levels and a specialized group of "iron cells" that always accumulate iron-loaded ferritin, even when no supplementary iron is added to the diet. Here, we further characterize ferritin localization in Drosophila melanogaster larvae raised under iron-enriched and iron-depleted conditions. High dietary iron intake results in ferritin accumulation in the anterior midgut, but also in garland (wreath) cells and in pericardial cells, which together filter the circulating hemolymph. Ferritin is also abundant in the brain, where levels remain unaltered following dietary iron chelation, a treatment that depletes ferritin from the aforementioned tissues. We attribute the stability of ferritin levels in the brain to the function of the blood-brain barrier that may shield this organ from systemic iron fluctuations. Most intriguingly, our dietary manipulations demonstrably iron-depleted the iron cells without a concomitant reduction in their production of ferritin. Therefore, insect iron cells may constitute an exception from the evolutionary norm with respect to iron-dependent ferritin regulation. It will be of interest to decipher both the physiological purpose served and the mechanism employed to untie ferritin regulation from cellular iron levels in this cell type.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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