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PLoS One. 2014 Jan 21;9(1):e86019. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086019. eCollection 2014.

Microarray analysis of rat pancreas reveals altered expression of Alox15 and regenerating islet-derived genes in response to iron deficiency and overload.

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Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, United States of America.


It is well known that iron overload can result in pancreatic iron deposition, beta-cell destruction, and diabetes in humans. Recent studies in animals have extended the link between iron status and pancreatic function by showing that iron depletion confers protection against beta-cell dysfunction and diabetes. The aim of the present study was to identify genes in the pancreas that are differentially expressed in response to iron deficiency or overload. Weanling male Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 6/group) were fed iron-deficient, iron-adequate, or iron-overloaded diets for 3 weeks to alter their iron status. Total RNA was isolated from the pancreases and pooled within each group for microarray analyses in which gene expression levels were compared to those in iron-adequate controls. In iron-deficient pancreas, a total of 66 genes were found to be differentially regulated (10 up, 56 down), whereas in iron-overloaded pancreas, 164 genes were affected (82 up, 82 down). The most up-regulated transcript in iron-deficient pancreas was arachidonate 15-lipoxygenase (Alox15), which has been implicated in the development of diabetes. In iron-overloaded pancreas, the most upregulated transcripts were Reg1a, Reg3a, and Reg3b belonging to the regenerating islet-derived gene (Reg) family. Reg expression has been observed in response to pancreatic stress and is thought to facilitate pancreatic regeneration. Subsequent qRT-PCR validation indicated that Alox15 mRNA levels were 4 times higher in iron-deficient than in iron-adequate pancreas and that Reg1a, Reg3a, and Reg3b mRNA levels were 17-36 times higher in iron-overloaded pancreas. The elevated Alox15 mRNA levels in iron-deficient pancreas were associated with 8-fold higher levels of Alox15 protein as indicated by Western blotting. Overall, these data raise the possibility that Reg expression may serve as a biomarker for iron-related pancreatic stress, and that iron deficiency may adversely affect the risk of developing diabetes through up-regulation of Alox15.

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