2014 journal article
Hypoxia induced changes in expression of proteins involved in iron uptake and storage in cultured lens epithelial cells
EXPERIMENTAL EYE RESEARCH, 125, 135–141.
Hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) regulates expression of over 60 genes by binding to hypoxia response elements (HRE) located upstream of the transcriptional start sites. Many genes encoding proteins involved in iron transport and homeostasis are regulated by HIF. Expression of iron handling proteins can also be translationally regulated by binding of iron regulatory protein (IRP) to iron responsive elements (IREs) on the mRNA of ferritin chains and transferrin receptor (TfR). Lens epithelial cells (LEC) function in a low oxygen environment. This increases the risk of iron catalyzed formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative cell damage. We examined changes in expression of ferritin (iron storage protein) and Tf/TfR1 (iron uptake proteins) in LEC cultured under hypoxic conditions. Ferritin consists of 24 subunits of two types, heavy (H-chain) and light (L-chain) assembled in a cell specific ratio. Real-time PCR showed that 24 h exposure to hypoxia lowered transcription of both ferritin chains by over 50% when compared with normoxic LEC. However it increased the level of ferritin chain proteins (20% average). We previously found that 6 h exposure of LEC to hypoxia increased the concentration of cytosolic iron which would stimulate translation of ferritin chains. This elevated ferritin concentration increased the iron storage capacity of LEC. Hypoxic LEC labeled with 59FeTf incorporated 70% more iron into ferritin after 6 h as compared to normoxic LEC. Exposure of LEC to hypoxia for 24 h reduced the concentration of TfR1 in cell lysates. As a result, hypoxic LEC internalized less Tf at this later time point. Incorporation of 59Fe into ferritin of hypoxic LEC after 24 h did not differ from that of normoxic LEC due to lower 59FeTf uptake. This study showed that hypoxia acutely increased iron storage capacity and lowered iron uptake due to changes in expression of iron handling proteins. These changes may better protect LEC against oxidative stress by limiting iron-catalyzed ROS formation in the low oxygen environment in which the lens resides.