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Gastroenterology. 1990 Apr;98(4):976-84.

Differential expression of transferrin receptor in duodenal mucosa in iron overload. Evidence for a site-specific defect in genetic hemochromatosis.

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Liver Unit, King's College Hospital and School of Medicine and Dentistry, Denmark Hill, London, England.


In genetic hemochromatosis, metabolic studies have demonstrated inappropriately increased iron absorption by cells of the duodenal mucosa. It is not clear whether this reflects an intrinsic abnormality of iron homeostasis at this site or is a consequence of a more generalized defect in cellular iron metabolism particularly involving the liver. We have previously used the expression of iron-related proteins as markers of iron homeostasis and have demonstrated normal regulation of the transferrin receptor and ferritin in the liver in this condition. In the present study we used immunohistochemical techniques to study transferrin-receptor expression in the gastrointestinal epithelium in normal subjects and patients with iron overload. In untreated genetic hemochromatosis and normal subjects, villus epithelial cells expressed receptor in the basolateral, subnuclear region. In contrast, in patients with secondary iron overload, receptor staining was absent in villus epithelial cells. The cells in the duodenal crypts showed intense staining for the transferrin receptor in all subjects investigated, a finding consistent with the known behavior of this receptor in proliferating cells. Given that body iron stores in both types of iron overload were comparable, these findings indicating a failure of down-regulation of the villus enterocyte transferrin receptor in genetic hemochromatosis may reflect the presence of a regulatory defect associated with the inability to control iron absorption in this condition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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