Iron up-modulates the expression of transferrin receptors during monocyte-macrophage maturation

U. Testa, M. Petrini, M. T. Quaranta, E. Pelosi-Testa, G. Mastroberardino, A. Camagna, G. Boccoli, M. Sargiacomo, G. Isacchi, A. Cozzi, P. Arosio, C. Peschle

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We have investigated the effect of iron on the expression of transferrin receptors (TrfRs) and ferritin chains in cultures of human peripheral blood monocytes maturing to macrophages. Monocyte-macrophage maturation is associated with a gradual rise of Trf-binding capacity in the absence of cell proliferation. At all culture times, treatment with ferric ammonium citrate induces a dose-dependent rise of the Trf-binding level as compared with nontreated cells. Scatchard analysis revealed that this phenomenon is due to an increase in receptor number rather than an alteration in ligand-receptor affinity. Biosynthesis experiments indicated that the rise in number of TrfRs is due to an increase of receptor synthesis, which is associated with a sustained elevation of the TrfR RNA level. The up-regulation of TrfR synthesis is specific in that expression of other macrophage membrane proteins is not affected by iron addition. Conversely, addition of an iron chelator induced a slight decrease of TrfR synthesis. The expression of heavy and light ferritin chains at RNA and protein levels was markedly more elevated in cultured macrophages than in fresh monocytes, thus suggesting modulation of ferritin genes at transcriptional or post-transcriptional levels. Addition of iron salts to monocyte-macrophage cultures sharply stimulated ferritin synthesis but only slightly enhanced the level of ferritin RNA, thus indicating a modulation at the translational level. These results suggest that in cultured human monocytes-macrophages, iron up-regulates TrfR expression, thus in sharp contrast to the negative feedback reported in a variety of other cell types. These observations may shed light on the mechanism(s) of iron storage in tissue macrophages under normal conditions and possibly on the pathogenesis of diseases characterized by abnormal iron storage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13181-13187
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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