Circulating pro- and antioxidant factors in iron and porphyrin metabolism disorders

E. Rocchi, G. Casalgrandi, A. Masini, F. Giovannini, D. Ceccarelli, M. Ferrali, S. Marchini, E. Ventura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Porphyria cutanea tarda and haemochromatosis are taken to be spontaneous human models of oxidative cellular damage, with an increased risk of fibrosis and cancer evolution. Aim: To define the relative pro-oxidant roles of porphyrin and iron, in their different molecular forms, and their effects on antioxidant biological systems. Patients: A group of 17 patients with porphyria cutanea tarda and a group of 14 patients with primary and secondary haemochromatosis, were compared with 21 healthy controls. Methods: Plasma retinol, tocopherol, alpha- and beta-carotene, ascorbic acid, glutathione, malonyldialdehyde and red blood cell free iron were determined using high performance liquid chromatography. Results: Only a modest increase in iron stores was demonstrated in the porhypria cutanea tarda group; in the haemochromatosis patients ferritin levels were almost seven times higher. By contrast, there was a sharp and virtually identical increase in red blood cell free iron and malonyldialdehyde in both the patient groups. A significant reduction was observed in retinol, alpha-, beta-carotene and red blood cell glutathione levels being more marked in porphyria cutanea tarda than in haemochromatosis patients. Conclusions: The study confirms the strong pro-oxidant effects of porphyrins in vivo, through an induction of the free toxic iron form, even though the total iron pool is not greatly expanded. The additional free-iron and porphyrin oxidant effects are documented both in red blood cell and plasma in the porphyria cutanea tarda group. It confirmed that aging exerts a negative influence in terms of pro- and antioxidant balance in all cases, but particularly in the haemochromatosis group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861-867
Number of pages7
JournalItalian Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Antioxidant system
  • Haemochromatosis
  • Oxidant system
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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