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J Clin Invest. 1993 Mar;91(3):969-76.

Regulation of transferrin receptor expression and ferritin content in human mononuclear phagocytes. Coordinate upregulation by iron transferrin and downregulation by interferon gamma.

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Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles.


We have investigated the regulation of key human iron binding proteins in mononuclear phagocytes by IFN gamma and iron transferrin. In a previous study, we demonstrated that IFN gamma downregulates the expression on human monocytes of transferrin receptors, the major source of iron for the cell. In the present study, we show that IFN gamma also downregulates the intracellular concentration of ferritin, the major iron storage protein in the cell. By radioimmunoassay, the mean ferritin content of nonactivated monocytes was 361 +/- 107 fg/monocyte (mean +/- SEM) whereas the mean ferritin content of IFN gamma-activated monocytes was 64 +/- 13 fg/monocyte, an 82% reduction with activation (P < 0.01, t test). Consistent with its downregulating effect on these iron proteins, IFN gamma treatment also results in decreased iron incorporation. IFN gamma-activated monocytes incorporated 33% less iron from 59Fe-transferrin than nonactivated monocytes (P < 0.05, t test). Gel filtration chromatography revealed that incorporated iron is located primarily in ferritin in both nonactivated and IFN gamma-activated monocytes. Ferritin in IFN gamma-activated monocytes is saturated with approximately three times as much 59Fe as ferritin in nonactivated monocytes. We have also explored the effect of iron transferrin on transferrin receptor expression and intracellular ferritin content in human monocytes. We have found that iron transferrin markedly upregulates both transferrin receptor expression and intracellular ferritin content in both nonactivated (2.3- and 1.3-fold, respectively) and IFN gamma-activated (3.4- and 2.9-fold, respectively) monocytes. This study demonstrates that transferrin receptor expression and intracellular ferritin content in human monocytes is unidirectionally and coordinately upregulated by iron transferrin and unidirectionally and coordinately downregulated by IFN gamma.

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