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PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e48947. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048947. Epub 2012 Nov 14.

Cardiac protection by preconditioning is generated via an iron-signal created by proteasomal degradation of iron proteins.

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Department of Cellular Biochemistry and Human Genetics, Faculties of Dental Medicine and Medicine, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel.


Ischemia associated injury of the myocardium is caused by oxidative damage during reperfusion. Myocardial protection by ischemic preconditioning (IPC) was shown to be mediated by a transient 'iron-signal' that leads to the accumulation of apoferritin and sequestration of reactive iron released during the ischemia. Here we identified the source of this 'iron signal' and evaluated its role in the mechanisms of cardiac protection by hypoxic preconditioning. Rat hearts were retrogradely perfused and the effect of proteasomal and lysosomal protease inhibitors on ferritin levels were measured. The iron-signal was abolished, ferritin levels were not increased and cardiac protection was diminished by inhibition of the proteasome prior to IPC. Similarly, double amounts of ferritin and better recovery after ex vivo ischemia-and-reperfusion (I/R) were found in hearts from in vivo hypoxia pre-conditioned animals. IPC followed by normoxic perfusion for 30 min ('delay') prior to I/R caused a reduced ferritin accumulation at the end of the ischemia phase and reduced protection. Full restoration of the IPC-mediated cardiac protection was achieved by employing lysosomal inhibitors during the 'delay'. In conclusion, proteasomal protein degradation of iron-proteins causes the generation of the 'iron-signal' by IPC, ensuing de-novo apoferritin synthesis and thus, sequestering reactive iron. Lysosomal proteases are involved in subsequent ferritin breakdown as revealed by the use of specific pathway inhibitors during the 'delay'. We suggest that proteasomal iron-protein degradation is a stress response causing an expeditious cytosolic iron release thus, altering iron homeostasis to protect the myocardium during I/R, while lysosomal ferritin degradation is part of housekeeping iron homeostasis.

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