Overexpression of the hereditary hemochromatosis protein, HFE, in HeLa cells induces an iron-deficient phenotype

Barbara Corsi, Sonia Levi, Anna Cozzi, Angelo Corti, Domenico Altimare, Alberto Albertini, Paolo Arosio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A transfectant HeLa cell clone expressing HFE under the control of a tetracycline-repressible promoter was generated. HFE expression was fully repressed by the presence of doxycycline, while it was strongly induced by growth in the absence of doxycycline. HFE accumulation was accompanied by a large (~10-fold) decrease in H- and L-ferritin levels, by a ~3-4-fold increase in transferrin receptor, and a ~2-fold increase in iron regulatory protein activity. These indices of cellular iron deficiency were reversed by iron supplementation complexes. The overexpressed HFE immunoprecipitated together with transferrin receptor, indicating a physical association which is the likely cause for the observed ~30% decrease in 55Fe-transferrin incorporation after 18 h incubation. In the HFE-expressing cells the reduction in transferrin-mediated iron incorporation was partially compensated by a ~30% increase in non-transferrin iron incorporation from 55Fe-NTA, evident after prolonged, 18 h, incubations. The findings indicate that HFE binding to transferrin receptor reduces cellular iron availability and regulates the balance between transferrin-mediated and non-transferrin-mediated cellular iron incorporation. Copyright (C) 1999 Federation of European Biochemical Societies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-152
Number of pages4
JournalFEBS Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 22 1999


  • Hemochromatosis
  • HFE protein
  • Iron metabolism
  • Recombinant protein
  • Transferrin receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biophysics
  • Molecular Biology


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