The liver peptide hepcidin regulates iron absorption and recycling. Hemojuvelin (HJV) has a key role in hepcidin regulation, and its inactivation causes severe iron overload both in humans and in mice. Membrane HJV (m-HJV) acts as a coreceptor for bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), whereas soluble HJV (s-HJV) may down-regulate hepcidin in a competitive way interfering with BMP signaling. s-HJV is decreased by iron in vitro and increased by iron deficiency in vivo. However, the mechanisms regulating the 2 HJV isoforms remain unclear. Here we show that s-HJV originates from a furin cleavage at position 332-335. s-HJV is reduced in the cleavage mutant R335Q as well as in cells treated with a furin inhibitor, and increased in cells overexpressing exogenous furin, but not in cells overexpressing an inactive furin variant. Furin is up-regulated by iron deficiency and hypoxia in association with the stabilization of HIF-1α. Increased s-HJV in response to HIF-1α occurs during differentiation of murine muscle cells expressing endogenous Hjv. Our data are relevant to the mechanisms that relate iron metabolism to the hypoxic response. The release of s-HJV might be a tissue-specific mechanism, signaling the local iron requests of hypoxic skeletal muscles independently of the oxygen status of the liver.
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