Immunohistochemical evidence for a lack of ferritin in duodenal absorptive epithelial cells in idiopathic hemochromatosis

Anna Ludovica Fracanzani, Silvia Fargion, Riccardo Romano, Alberto Piperno, Paolo Arosio, Giuseppina Ruggeri, Guido Ronchi, Gemino Fiorelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Patients with idiopathic hemochromatosis exhibit an unexplained increase in intestinal iron absorption. The aim of this work was to study immunohistochemical H- and L-ferritin distribution in duodenal mucosal cells of patients with idiopathic hemochromatosis, and of subjects with various degrees of iron loading. Biopsy sections of gastrointestinal mucosa from 24 patients with idiopathic hemochromatosis, 10 patients with secondary iron overload, 6 normal subjects, and 13 iron-deficient subjects were analyzed with monoclonal antibodies for the presence of immunohistochemical H and L ferritin types, and with Perls' stain for hemosiderin. Ferritin content of duodenal homogenates was evaluated in 5 cases. The absorptive duodenal cells were found to contain ferritin, mostly of the L type, in apical granules; these ferritin granules were present in all normal, iron-deficient, and iron-over-loaded subjects, but were absent in 21 (87%) of the patients with established idiopathic hemochromatosis. In cells other than those of the duodenal epithelium, such as lamina propria or antral mucosa, ferritin and hemosiderin contents were related to iron loading and no difference was evident between primary and secondary iron overload. These findings indicate that (a) idiopathic hemochromatosis is associated with an altered ferritin expression in the duodenal absorptive epithelial cells, (b) this alteration cannot be detected by analysis of duodenal homogenates, (c) idiopathic hemochromatosis does not affect ferritin accumulation in the other cell types analyzed, and (d) ferritin in absorptive duodenal cells may have a regulatory role in iron absorption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1071-1078
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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