The iron chelator deferasirox affects redox signalling in haematopoietic stem/progenitor cells

Tiziana Tataranni, Francesca Agriesti, Carmela Mazzoccoli, Vitalba Ruggieri, Rosella Scrima, Ilaria Laurenzana, Fiorella D'Auria, Franca Falzetti, Mauro Di Ianni, Pellegrino Musto, Nazzareno Capitanio, Claudia Piccoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The iron chelator deferasirox (DFX) prevents complications related to transfusional iron overload in several haematological disorders characterized by marrow failure. It is also able to induce haematological responses in a percentage of treated patients, particularly in those affected by myelodysplastic syndromes. The underlying mechanisms responsible for this feature, however, are still poorly understood. In this study, we investigated the effect of DFX-treatment in human haematopoietic/progenitor stem cells, focussing on its impact on the redox balance, which proved to control the interplay between stemness maintenance, self-renewal and differentiation priming. Here we show, for the first time, that DFX treatment induces a significant diphenyleneiodonium-sensitive reactive oxygen species (ROS) production that leads to the activation of POU5F1 (OCT4), SOX2 and SOX17 gene expression, relevant in reprogramming processes, and the reduction of the haematopoietic regulatory proteins CTNNB1 (β-Catenin) and BMI1. These DFX-mediated events were accompanied by decreased CD34 expression, increased mitochondrial mass and up-regulation of the erythropoietic marker CD71 (TFRC) and were compound-specific, dissimilar to deferoxamine. Our findings would suggest a novel mechanism by which DFX, probably independently on its iron-chelating property but through ROS signalling activation, may influence key factors involved in self-renewal/differentiation of haematopoietic stem cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-246
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal of Haematology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Deferasirox
  • Differentiation
  • Haematopoietic stem cell
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Reactive oxygen species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Medicine(all)

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