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1.  Hepcidin Expression in the Liver: Relatively Low Level in Patients with Chronic Hepatitis C 
Molecular Medicine  2007;13(1-2):97-104.
Patients with chronic hepatitis C frequently have serum and hepatic iron overload, but the mechanism is unknown. Recently identified hepcidin, exclusively synthesized in the liver, is thought to be a key regulator for iron homeostasis and is induced by infection and inflammation. This study was conducted to determine the hepatic hepcidin expression levels in patients with various liver diseases. We investigated hepcidin mRNA levels of liver samples by real-time detection-polymerase chain reaction; 56 were hepatitis C virus (HCV) positive, 34 were hepatitis B virus (HBV) positive, and 42 were negative for HCV and HBV (3 cases of auto-immune hepatitis, 7 alcoholic liver disease, 13 primary biliary cirrhosis, 9 nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and 10 normal liver). We analyzed the relation of hepcidin to clinical, hematological, histological, and etiological findings. Hepcidin expression levels were strongly correlated with serum ferritin (P < 0.0001) and the degree of iron deposit in liver tissues (P < 0.0001). Hepcidin was also correlated with hematological parameters (vs. hemoglobin, P = 0.0073; vs. serum iron, P = 0.0012; vs. transferrin saturation, P < 0.0001) and transaminase levels (P = 0.0013). The hepcidin-to-ferritin ratio was significantly lower in HCV+ patients than in HBV+ patients (P = 0.0129) or control subjects (P = 0.0080). In conclusion, hepcidin expression levels in chronic liver diseases were strongly correlated with either the serum ferritin concentration or degree of iron deposits in the liver. When adjusted by either serum ferritin values or hepatic iron scores, hepcidin indices were significantly lower in HCV+ patients than in HBV+ patients, suggesting that hepcidin may play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of iron overload in patients with chronic hepatitis C.
PMCID: PMC1869620  PMID: 17515961
2.  Decreased Serum Hepcidin Concentration Correlates with Brain Iron Deposition in Patients with HBV-Related Cirrhosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65551.
Excessive brain iron accumulation contributes to cognitive impairments in hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related cirrhotic patients. The underlying mechanism remains unclear. Hepcidin, a liver-produced, 25-aminoacid peptide, is the major regulator of systemic iron metabolism. Abnormal hepcidin level is a key factor in some body iron accumulation or deficiency disorders, especially in those associated with liver diseases. Our study was aimed to explore the relationship between brain iron content in patients with HBV-related cirrhosis and serum hepcidin level.
Seventy HBV-related cirrhotic patients and forty age- sex-matched healthy controls were enrolled. Brain iron content was quantified by susceptibility weighted phase imaging technique. Serum hepcidin as well as serum iron, serum transferrin, ferritin, soluble transferrin receptor, total iron binding capacity, and transferrin saturation were tested in thirty cirrhotic patients and nineteen healthy controls. Pearson correlation analysis was performed to investigate correlation between brain iron concentrations and serum hepcidin, or other iron parameters.
Cirrhotic patients had increased brain iron accumulation compared to controls in the left red nuclear, the bilateral substantia nigra, the bilateral thalamus, the right caudate, and the right putamen. Cirrhotic patients had significantly decreased serum hepcidin concentration, as well as lower serum transferring level, lower total iron binding capacity and higher transferrin saturation, compared to controls. Serum hepcidin level negatively correlated with the iron content in the right caudate, while serum ferritin level positively correlated with the iron content in the bilateral putamen in cirrhotic patients.
Decreased serum hepcidin level correlated with excessive iron accumulation in the basal ganglia in HBV-related cirrhotic patients. Our results indicated that systemic iron overload underlined regional brain iron repletion. Serum hepcidin may be a clinical biomarker for brain iron deposition in cirrhotic patients, which may have therapeutic potential.
PMCID: PMC3679136  PMID: 23776499
3.  Highly Elevated Serum Hepcidin in Patients with Acute Myeloid Leukemia prior to and after Allogeneic Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation: Does This Protect from Excessive Parenchymal Iron Loading? 
Advances in Hematology  2011;2011:491058.
Hepcidin is upregulated by inflammation and iron. Inherited (HFE genotype) and treatment-related factors (blood units (BU), Iron overload) affecting hepcidin (measured by C-ELISA) were studied in 42 consecutive patients with AML prior to and after allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). Results. Elevated serum ferritin pre- and post-HCT was present in all patients. Median hepcidin pre- and post-HCT of 358 and 398 ng/mL, respectively, were elevated compared to controls (median 52 ng/mL) (P < .0001). Liver and renal function, prior chemotherapies, and conditioning had no impact on hepcidin. Despite higher total BU after HCT compared to pretransplantation (P < .0005), pre- and posttransplant ferritin and hepcidin were similar. BU influenced ferritin (P = .001) and hepcidin (P = .001). No correlation of pre- or posttransplant hepcidin with pretransplant ferritin was found. HFE genotype did not influence hepcidin. Conclusions. Hepcidin is elevated in AML patients pre- and post-HCT due to transfusional iron-loading suggesting that hepcidin synthesis remains intact despite chemotherapy and HCT.
PMCID: PMC3112503  PMID: 21687645
4.  Reduced serum hepcidin levels in patients with chronic hepatitis C 
Journal of hepatology  2009;51(5):845-852.
Patients with chronic hepatitis C (CHC) often have increased liver iron, a condition associated with reduced sustained response to antiviral therapy, more rapid progression to cirrhosis, and development of hepatocellular carcinoma. The hepatic hormone hepcidin is the major regulator of iron metabolism and inhibits iron absorption and recycling from erythrophagocytosis. Hepcidin decrease is a possible pathophysiological mechanism of iron overload in CHC, but studies in humans have been hampered so far by the lack of reliable quantitative assays for the 25-amino acid bioactive peptide in serum (s-hepcidin).
Using a recently validated immunoassay, we measured s-hepcidin levels in 81 untreated CHC patients and 57 controls with rigorous definition of normal iron status. All CHC patients underwent liver biopsy with histological iron score.
S-hepcidin was significantly lower in CHC patients than in controls (geometric means with 95% confidence intervals: 33.7, 21.5–52.9 vs. 90.9, 76.1–108.4 ng/mL, respectively; p < 0.001). In CHC patients, s-hepcidin significantly correlated with serum ferritin and histological total iron score, but not with s-interleukin-6. After stratification for ferritin quartiles, s-hepcidin increased significantly across quartiles in both controls and CHC patients (chi for trend, p < 0.001). However, in CHC patients, s-hepcidin was significantly lower than in controls for each corresponding quartile (analysis of variance, p < 0.001).
These results, together with very recent studies in animal and cellular models, indicate that although hepcidin regulation by iron stores is maintained in CHC, the suppression of this hormone by hepatitis C virus is likely an important factor in liver iron accumulation in this condition.
PMCID: PMC2761995  PMID: 19729219
Chronic hepatitis C; Hemochromatosis; Hepcidin; Iron overload; Ferritin
5.  Serum iron metabolism and erythropoiesis in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome not receiving RBC transfusions 
Leukemia research  2014;38(5):545-550.
Dysregulation of hepcidin, a key iron regulating hormone, is important in the pathogenesis of iron overload in patients with myelodysplatic syndrome (MDS). However, most studies of hepcidin levels are complicated by concomitant RBC transfusions. To evaluate the relationship between iron metabolism and erythropoiesis, we measured serum levels of hepcidin, growth-differentiation factor-15 (GDF15) and other markers of erythropoiesis in 107 subjects with MDS not receiving RBC transfusions. Patients with MDS had significantly higher levels of hepcidin than normals. However, their hepcidin–ferritin ratio was markedly decreased compared to normals (P < 0.001) and varied substantially between MDS subtypes (P = 0.011). GDF15 levels positively correlated with percent of bone marrow erythroblasts (P < 0.001), soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR) (P = 0.018), and also with transferrin saturation (ISAT) (P = 0.038). The hepcidin–ferritin ratio negatively correlated with serum erythropoietin (EPO) levels (P < 0.001), and also with GDF15 levels (P = 0.014). Colony forming cells (CFC) were evaluated in 70 subjects. Those with serum ferritin (SF) levels <500 ng/ml had significantly more BFU-E than subjects with SF≥ 500 ng/L (P = 0.007), but numbers of granulocyte/macrophage-colony-forming cells (CFU-GM) were similar (P = 0.190). Our data indicate serum hepcidin levels are inappropriately low in patients MDS not receiving RBC transfusions. GDF15 levels correlated with low hepcidin levels and may contribute to iron overload in this setting. Iron overload may in turn suppress erythropoiesis by imparing the proliferative capacity of the erythroid progenitor cells.
PMCID: PMC4439195  PMID: 24598841
Myelodysplastic syndromes; Iron metabolism; Hematopoiesis
6.  Increased Serum Hepcidin Levels in Subjects with the Metabolic Syndrome: A Population Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e48250.
The recent discovery of hepcidin, the key iron regulatory hormone, has changed our view of iron metabolism, which in turn is long known to be linked with insulin resistant states, including type 2 diabetes mellitus and the Metabolic Syndrome (MetS). Serum ferritin levels are often elevated in MetS (Dysmetabolic hyperferritinemia - DHF), and are sometimes associated with a true mild-to-moderate hepatic iron overload (dysmetabolic iron overload syndrome - DIOS). However, the pathophysiological link between iron and MetS remains unclear. This study was aimed to investigate, for the first time, the relationship between MetS and hepcidin at population level. We measured serum hepcidin levels by Mass Spectrometry in 1,391 subjects from the Val Borbera population, and evaluated their relationship with classical MetS features. Hepcidin levels increased significantly and linearly with increasing number of MetS features, paralleling the trend of serum ferritin. In multivariate models adjusted for relevant variables including age, C-Reactive Protein, and the HFE C282Y mutation, ferritin was the only significant independent predictor of hepcidin in males, while in females MetS was also independently associated with hepcidin. Overall, these data indicate that the fundamental iron regulatory feedback is preserved in MetS, i.e. that hepcidin tends to progressively increase in response to the increase of iron stores. Due to recently discovered pleiotropic effects of hepcidin, this may worsen insulin resistance and contribute to the cardiovascular complications of MetS.
PMCID: PMC3483177  PMID: 23144745
7.  Gender-related variations in iron metabolism and liver diseases 
World Journal of Hepatology  2010;2(8):302-310.
The regulation of iron metabolism involves multiple organs including the duodenum, liver and bone marrow. The recent discoveries of novel iron-regulatory proteins have brought the liver to the forefront of iron homeostasis. The iron overload disorder, genetic hemochromatosis, is one of the most prevalent genetic diseases in individuals of Caucasian origin. Furthermore, patients with non-hemochromatotic liver diseases, such as alcoholic liver disease, chronic hepatitis C or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, often exhibit elevated serum iron indices (ferritin, transferrin saturation) and mild to moderate hepatic iron overload. Clinical data indicate significant differences between men and women regarding liver injury in patients with alcoholic liver disease, chronic hepatitis C or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. The penetrance of genetic hemochromatosis also varies between men and women. Hepcidin has been suggested to act as a modifier gene in genetic hemochromatosis. Hepcidin is a circulatory antimicrobial peptide synthesized by the liver. It plays a pivotal role in the regulation of iron homeostasis. Hepcidin has been shown to be regulated by iron, inflammation, oxidative stress, hypoxia, alcohol, hepatitis C and obesity. Sex and genetic background have also been shown to modulate hepcidin expression in mice. The role of gender in the regulation of human hepcidin gene expression in the liver is unknown. However, hepcidin may play a role in gender-based differences in iron metabolism and liver diseases. Better understanding of the mechanisms associated with gender-related differences in iron metabolism and chronic liver diseases may enable the development of new treatment strategies.
PMCID: PMC2999297  PMID: 21161013
Alcohol; Hepcidin; Hepatitis C; Hemochromatosis; Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis
8.  Hepcidin levels in diabetes mellitus and polycystic ovary syndrome 
Diabetic Medicine  2013;30(12):1495-1499.
Increased body iron is associated with insulin resistance. Hepcidin is the key hormone that negatively regulates iron homeostasis. We hypothesized that individuals with insulin resistance have inadequate hepcidin levels for their iron load.
Serum concentrations of the active form of hepcidin (hepcidin-25) and hepcidin:ferritin ratio were evaluated in participants with Type 2 diabetes (n = 33, control subjects matched for age, gender and BMI,n = 33) and participants with polycystic ovary syndrome (n = 27, control subjects matched for age and BMI,n = 16). To investigate whether any changes observed were associated with insulin resistance rather than insulin deficiency or hyperglycaemia per se, the same measurements were made in participants with Type 1 diabetes (n = 28, control subjects matched for age, gender and BMI,n = 30). Finally, the relationship between homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance and serum hepcidin:ferritin ratio was explored in overweight or obese participants without diabetes (n = 16).
Participants with Type 2 diabetes had significantly lower hepcidin and hepcidin:ferritin ratio than control subjects (P < 0.05 and P < 0.01, respectively). Participants with polycystic ovary syndrome had a significantly lower hepcidin:ferritin ratio than control subjects (P < 0.05). There was no significant difference in hepcidin or hepcidin:ferritin ratio between participants with Type 1 diabetes and control subjects (P = 0.88 and P = 0.94). Serum hepcidin:ferritin ratio inversely correlated with homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (r = –0.59, P < 0.05).
Insulin resistance, but not insulin deficiency or hyperglycaemia per se, is associated with inadequate hepcidin levels. Reduced hepcidin concentrations may cause increased body iron stores in insulin-resistant states.
PMCID: PMC4232927  PMID: 23796160
9.  Comparative evaluation of the effects of treatment with tocilizumab and TNF-α inhibitors on serum hepcidin, anemia response and disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis patients 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2013;15(5):R141.
Anemia of inflammation (AI) is a common complication of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and has a negative impact on RA symptoms and quality of life. Upregulation of hepcidin by inflammatory cytokines has been implicated in AI. In this study, we evaluated and compared the effects of IL-6 and TNF-α blocking therapies on anemia, disease activity, and iron-related parameters including serum hepcidin in RA patients.
Patients (n = 93) were treated with an anti-IL-6 receptor antibody (tocilizumab) or TNF-α inhibitors for 16 weeks. Major disease activity indicators and iron-related parameters including serum hepcidin-25 were monitored before and 2, 4, 8, and 16 weeks after the initiation of treatment. Effects of tocilizumab and infliximab (anti-TNF-α antibody) on cytokine-induced hepcidin expression in hepatoma cells were analyzed by quantitative real-time PCR.
Anemia at base line was present in 66% of patients. Baseline serum hepcidin-25 levels were correlated positively with serum ferritin, C-reactive protein (CRP), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) levels and Disease Activity Score 28 (DAS28). Significant improvements in anemia and disease activity, and reductions in serum hepcidin-25 levels were observed within 2 weeks in both groups, and these effects were more pronounced in the tocilizumab group than in the TNF-α inhibitors group. Serum hepcidin-25 reduction by the TNF-α inhibitor therapy was accompanied by a decrease in serum IL-6, suggesting that the effect of TNF-α on the induction of hepcidin-25 was indirect. In in vitro experiments, stimulation with the cytokine combination of IL-6+TNF-α induced weaker hepcidin expression than did with IL-6 alone, and this induction was completely suppressed by tocilizumab but not by infliximab.
Hepcidin-mediated iron metabolism may contribute to the pathogenesis of RA-related anemia. In our cohort, tocilizumab was more effective than TNF-α inhibitors for improving anemia and normalizing iron metabolism in RA patients by inhibiting hepcidin production.
PMCID: PMC3978580  PMID: 24286116
10.  Evidence for a Lack of a Direct Transcriptional Suppression of the Iron Regulatory Peptide Hepcidin by Hypoxia-Inducible Factors 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(11):e7875.
Hepcidin is a major regulator of iron metabolism and plays a key role in anemia of chronic disease, reducing intestinal iron uptake and release from body iron stores. Hypoxia and chemical stabilizers of the hypoxia-inducible transcription factor (HIF) have been shown to suppress hepcidin expression. We therefore investigated the role of HIF in hepcidin regulation.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Hepcidin mRNA was down-regulated in hepatoma cells by chemical HIF stabilizers and iron chelators, respectively. In contrast, the response to hypoxia was variable. The decrease in hepcidin mRNA was not reversed by HIF-1α or HIF-2α knock-down or by depletion of the HIF and iron regulatory protein (IRP) target transferrin receptor 1 (TfR1). However, the response of hepcidin to hypoxia and chemical HIF inducers paralleled the regulation of transferrin receptor 2 (TfR2), one of the genes critical to hepcidin expression. Hepcidin expression was also markedly and rapidly decreased by serum deprivation, independent of transferrin-bound iron, and by the phosphatidylinositol 3 (PI3) kinase inhibitor LY294002, indicating that growth factors are required for hepcidin expression in vitro. Hepcidin promoter constructs mirrored the response of mRNA levels to interleukin-6 and bone morphogenetic proteins, but not consistently to hypoxia or HIF stabilizers, and deletion of the putative HIF binding motifs did not alter the response to different hypoxic stimuli. In mice exposed to carbon monoxide, hypoxia or the chemical HIF inducer N-oxalylglycine, liver hepcidin 1 mRNA was elevated rather than decreased.
Taken together, these data indicate that hepcidin is neither a direct target of HIF, nor indirectly regulated by HIF through induction of TfR1 expression. Hepcidin mRNA expression in vitro is highly sensitive to the presence of serum factors and PI3 kinase inhibition and parallels TfR2 expression.
PMCID: PMC2773926  PMID: 19924283
11.  The Relation of Hepcidin to Iron Disorders, Inflammation and Hemoglobin in Chronic Kidney Disease 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99781.
The metabolism of hepcidin is profoundly modified in chronic kidney disease (CKD). We investigated its relation to iron disorders, inflammation and hemoglobin (Hb) level in 199 non-dialyzed, non-transplanted patients with CKD stages 1–5. All had their glomerular filtration rate measured by 51Cr-EDTA renal clearance (mGFR), as well as measurements of iron markers including hepcidin and of erythropoietin (EPO). Hepcidin varied from 0.2 to 193 ng/mL. The median increased from 23.3 ng/mL [8.8–28.7] to 36.1 ng/mL [14.1–92.3] when mGFR decreased from ≥60 to <15 mL/min/1.73 m2 (p = 0.02). Patients with absolute iron deficiency (transferrin saturation (TSAT) <20% and ferritin <40 ng/mL) had the lowest hepcidin levels (5.0 ng/mL [0.7–11.7]), and those with a normal iron profile (TSAT ≥20% and ferritin ≥40), the highest (34.5 ng/mL [23.7–51.6]). In multivariate analysis, absolute iron deficiency was associated with lower hepcidin values, and inflammation combined with a normal or functional iron profile with higher values, independent of other determinants of hepcidin concentration, including EPO, mGFR, and albuminemia. The hepcidin level, although it rose overall when mGFR declined, collapsed in patients with absolute iron deficiency. There was a significant interaction with iron status in the association between Hb and hepcidin. Except in absolute iron deficiency, hepcidin’s negative association with Hb level indicates that it is not down-regulated in CKD anemia.
PMCID: PMC4076189  PMID: 24978810
12.  Hepcidin-25 in Diabetic Chronic Kidney Disease Is Predictive for Mortality and Progression to End Stage Renal Disease 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0123072.
Anemia is common and is associated with impaired clinical outcomes in diabetic chronic kidney disease (CKD). It may be explained by reduced erythropoietin (EPO) synthesis, but recent data suggest that EPO-resistance and diminished iron availability due to inflammation contribute significantly. In this cohort study, we evaluated the impact of hepcidin-25—the key hormone of iron-metabolism—on clinical outcomes in diabetic patients with CKD along with endogenous EPO levels.
249 diabetic patients with CKD of any stage, excluding end-stage renal disease (ESRD), were enrolled (2003–2005), if they were not on EPO-stimulating agent and iron therapy. Hepcidin-25 levels were measured by radioimmunoassay. The association of hepcidin-25 at baseline with clinical variables was investigated using linear regression models. All-cause mortality and a composite endpoint of CKD progression (ESRD or doubling of serum creatinine) were analyzed by Cox proportional hazards models.
Patients (age 67 yrs, 53% male, GFR 51 ml/min, hemoglobin 131 g/L, EPO 13.5 U/L, hepcidin-25 62.0 ng/ml) were followed for a median time of 4.2 yrs. Forty-nine patients died (19.7%) and forty (16.1%) patients reached the composite endpoint. Elevated hepcidin levels were independently associated with higher ferritin-levels, lower EPO-levels and impaired kidney function (all p<0.05). Hepcidin was related to mortality, along with its interaction with EPO, older age, greater proteinuria and elevated CRP (all p<0.05). Hepcidin was also predictive for progression of CKD, aside from baseline GFR, proteinuria, low albumin- and hemoglobin-levels and a history of CVD (all p<0.05).
We found hepcidin-25 to be associated with EPO and impaired kidney function in diabetic CKD. Elevated hepcidin-25 and EPO-levels were independent predictors of mortality, while hepcidin-25 was also predictive for progression of CKD. Both hepcidin-25 and EPO may represent important prognostic factors of clinical outcome and have the potential to further define “high risk” populations in CKD.
PMCID: PMC4404250  PMID: 25894587
13.  Hepcidin and iron status among pregnant women in Bangladesh 
Although hepcidin, a recently discovered peptide hormone, is considered a major regulator of iron metabolism and the anemia of chronic inflammation, its role in the anemia of pregnancy has not been characterized. Our objective was to characterize the role of hepcidin in the anemia of pregnancy. We examined the relationships between urinary hepcidin, iron status indicators, hemoglobin, erythropoietin, alpha-1 acid glycoprotein, and C-reactive protein in a cross-sectional study conducted among 149 pregnant rural Bangladeshi women in biospecimens obtained during home visits. Urinary hepcidin was measured using surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Urinary hepcidin, as log(intensity per mmol/L creatinine), was correlated with log ferritin (r = 0.33, p <0.001), the transferrin receptor index (r = −0.22, p = 0.007), and log alpha-1 acid glycoprotein (r = 0.20, p = 0.01), but not hemoglobin (r = 0.07, p= 0.40), log transferrin receptor (r = −0.07, p = 0.41), log erythropoietin (r = −0.01, p = 0.88) or log C-reactive protein (r = 0.06, p = 0.48). The strength of the relationship between hepcidin and ferritin was maintained in a multiple linear regression analyses after enhancing the sample with women selected for low iron stores (n = 41). Among pregnant women in a community-based study in rural Bangladesh, urinary hepcidin levels were related to iron status and AGP but not hemoglobin, erythropoietin, or C-reactive protein.
PMCID: PMC2789317  PMID: 18818166
anemia; hepcidin; inflammation; iron; pregnancy
14.  Serum prohepcidin is associated with soluble transferrin receptor-1 but not ferritin in healthy post-menopausal women 
Blood cells, molecules & diseases  2008;41(3):265-269.
Hepcidin is a 25-amino-acid iron peptide hormone originated from its two precursors of prohepcidin (60-amino-acid) and preprohepcidin (84-amino-acid). Serum prohepcidin levels have been widely used to evaluate iron overload in clinical and preclinical studies. However, its usefulness is often questioned and its stepwise conversion mechanism remains largely unknown. Using New York University Women’s Health Study subjects, we measured serum levels of prohepcidin with ELISA and hepcidin with mass spectrometry as well as ferritin and soluble transferrin receptor 1 (sTfR1) in 45 normal healthy postmenopausal women over a 1-year period with 2 samples per subject. We found that serum prohepcidin levels are correlated with the serum sTfR1 levels (r=0.45, p<0.01) but not to ferritin levels (r=0.08, p=0.60), suggesting that serum prohepcidin is not a biomarker of iron overload that was originally thought and designed for. Interestingly, serum hepcidin levels are associated with serum ferritin levels (r=0.64, p<0.0001) but not with sTfR1 levels (r=0.04, p=0.69), indicating that hepcidin is a measure of iron overload. Although hepcidin is a downstream product of prohepcidin, the amounts of hepcidin and prohepcidin are not related to each other (r=−0.007, p=0.90) under normal physiological conditions. The interrelationships between sTfR1 and prohepcidin or between ferritin and hepcidin suggest that ferritin- and sTfR1-sensed hepcidin conversion system exists in human body and maybe regulated at the post-translational level.
PMCID: PMC2602946  PMID: 18694648
Iron; homeostasis; transferrin receptor; ferritin; hepcidin
15.  Intestinal inflammation modulates expression of the iron regulating hormone hepcidin depending on erythropoietic activity and the commensal microbiota1 
States of chronic inflammation such as inflammatory bowel disease are often associated with dysregulated iron metabolism and the consequent development of an anemia that is caused by maldistribution of iron. Abnormally elevated expression of the hormone hepcidin, the central regulator of systemic iron homeostasis, has been implicated in these abnormalities. However, the mechanisms that regulate hepcidin expression in conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease are not completely understood. To clarify this issue, we studied hepcidin expression in mouse models of colitis. We found that dextran sulfate sodium-induced colitis inhibited hepcidin expression in wild-type mice but up-regulated it in IL-10-deficient animals. We identified two mechanisms contributing to this difference. Firstly, erythropoietic activity, as indicated by serum erythropoietin concentrations and splenic erythropoiesis, was higher in the wild-type mice, and pharmacologic inhibition of erythropoiesis prevented colitis-associated hepcidin down-regulation in these animals. Secondly, the IL-10 knockout mice had higher expression of multiple inflammatory genes in the liver, including several controlled by STAT3, a key regulator of hepcidin. The results of co-housing and fecal transplantation experiments indicated that the microbiota was involved in modulating the expression of hepcidin and other STAT3-dependent hepatic genes in the context of intestinal inflammation. Our observations thus demonstrate the importance of erythropoietic activity and the microbiota in influencing hepcidin expression during colitis, and provide insight into the dysregulated iron homeostasis seen in inflammatory diseases.
PMCID: PMC4108560  PMID: 24973448
16.  Hepcidin-25 in Chronic Hemodialysis Patients Is Related to Residual Kidney Function and Not to Treatment with Erythropoiesis Stimulating Agents 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e39783.
Hepcidin-25, the bioactive form of hepcidin, is a key regulator of iron homeostasis as it induces internalization and degradation of ferroportin, a cellular iron exporter on enterocytes, macrophages and hepatocytes. Hepcidin levels are increased in chronic hemodialysis (HD) patients, but as of yet, limited information on factors associated with hepcidin-25 in these patients is available. In the current cross-sectional study, potential patient-, laboratory- and treatment-related determinants of serum hepcidin-20 and -25, were assessed in a large cohort of stable, prevalent HD patients. Baseline data from 405 patients (62% male; age 63.7±13.9 [mean SD]) enrolled in the CONvective TRAnsport STudy (CONTRAST; NCT00205556) were studied. Predialysis hepcidin concentrations were measured centrally with matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Patient-, laboratory- and treatment related characteristics were entered in a backward multivariable linear regression model. Hepcidin-25 levels were independently and positively associated with ferritin (p<0.001), hsCRP (p<0.001) and the presence of diabetes (p = 0.02) and inversely with the estimated glomerular filtration rate (p = 0.01), absolute reticulocyte count (p = 0.02) and soluble transferrin receptor (p<0.001). Men had lower hepcidin-25 levels as compared to women (p = 0.03). Hepcidin-25 was not associated with the maintenance dose of erythropoiesis stimulating agents (ESA) or iron therapy. In conclusion, in the currently studied cohort of chronic HD patients, hepcidin-25 was a marker for iron stores and erythropoiesis and was associated with inflammation. Furthermore, hepcidin-25 levels were influenced by residual kidney function. Hepcidin-25 did not reflect ESA or iron dose in chronic stable HD patients on maintenance therapy. These results suggest that hepcidin is involved in the pathophysiological pathway of renal anemia and iron availability in these patients, but challenges its function as a clinical parameter for ESA resistance.
PMCID: PMC3396629  PMID: 22808058
17.  Elevated Hepcidin Is Part of a Complex Relation That Links Mortality with Iron Homeostasis and Anemia in Men and Women with HIV Infection123 
The Journal of Nutrition  2015;145(6):1194-1201.
Background: Early and chronic inflammation is a hallmark of HIV infection, and inflammation is known to increase hepcidin expression. Consequently, hepcidin may be a key determinant of the iron homeostasis and anemia associated with poorer HIV prognoses.
Objective: The objective of this study was to understand how hepcidin is related to anemia, iron homeostasis, and inflammation at HIV diagnosis and to investigate associations between hepcidin and all-cause mortality in HIV infection.
Methods: In a retrospective cohort, baseline plasma hepcidin was measured by competitive enzyme immunoassay within 3 mo of HIV diagnosis in 196 antiretroviral-naive Gambians. Iron homeostasis [hemoglobin, plasma transferrin, ferritin, iron, soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR)] and inflammation [α1-antichymotrypsin (ACT)] from the same plasma sample were available, as were absolute CD4 cell counts, age, gender, body mass index (BMI), and HIV type.
Results: Anemia was common across the spectrum of immunosuppression [CD4 cell counts (prevalence of anemia): >500 cells/μL (68%), 200–500 cells/μL (73%), and <200 cells/μL (89%); P = 0.032] and in men (81%) and women (76%). Increasing hepcidin was associated with iron homeostasis biomarkers (higher ferritin and lower transferrin, hemoglobin, and sTfR), inflammation (higher ACT), and key health indicators (lower CD4 or BMI, advancing age, and male gender; P < 0.001 except for hemoglobin, P = 0.021). Elevated hepcidin was associated with greater all-cause mortality in a dose-dependent manner [intermediate vs. lowest tertile: unadjusted HR (95% CI), 1.95 (1.22, 3.10); upper vs. lowest tertile: 3.02 (1.91, 4.78)]. Principal components analysis identified 2 patterns composed of hepcidin-ferritin-transferrin, with or without ACT, and iron-sTfR-hemoglobin that may distinguish inflammation and erythropoiesis iron functions.
Conclusions: Elevated hepcidin is independently associated with greater mortality in men and women with HIV infection, and hepcidin is also part of a complex relation linking iron homeostasis, anemia, and HIV. Understanding the mechanisms and role of hepcidin modulation may further guide evidence-based interventions needed to counter detrimental iron homeostasis and anemia in HIV infection.
PMCID: PMC4442111  PMID: 25904736
Africa; cohort; ferritin; hemoglobin; HIV-2; inflammation; nutrition; survival; transferrin receptor; transferrin
18.  Is serum hepcidin causative in hemochromatosis? Novel analysis from a liver transplant with hemochromatosis 
Hepcidin is a circulating hepatic hormone that regulates iron balance. It has been speculated that hepcidin insufficiency or dysregulation may be the primary defect in genetic hemochromatosis.
A 62-year-old woman underwent elective liver transplantation for chronic hepatitis C cirrhosis. Genetic testing for hemochromatosis was subsequently performed on the donor and recipient. Liver iron concentration was measured in the donated liver at the time of transplantation, and at day 2 and day 652 post-transplant. Serum hepcidin was measured at day 935 in the recipient and in three other liver transplant recipients.
The donor was discovered to have significant iron overload without fibrosis, with a liver iron concentration of 326 μmol/g (normal is 0 μmol/g to 35 μmol/g). Genetic testing confirmed that the 89-year-old female donor was a typical C282Y homozygote for hemochromatosis. The recipient did not carry either the C282Y or the H63D mutation of the HFE gene for hemochromatosis. Liver biopsy was performed on the recipient on day 2 and day 652 post-transplant; the liver iron concentrations were 333 μmol/g and 253 μmol/g, respectively. Serum hepcidin in the recipient was elevated at 111 ng/mL compared with that of the three other ambulatory liver transplant recipients (66 ng/mL, 76 ng/mL and 81 ng/mL).
The liver transplant recipient described in the present report demonstrated a slight decrease in liver iron concentration over a 1.8-year follow-up period without specific therapy. Hepcidin insufficiency as a primary cause of genetic hemochromatosis seems unlikely based on the clinical profile of the present patient and the hepcidin measurements.
PMCID: PMC2661307  PMID: 18925311
Hemochromatosis; HFE; Iron overload
19.  Hepcidin antagonists for potential treatments of disorders with hepcidin excess 
The discovery of hepcidin clarified the basic mechanism of the control of systemic iron homeostasis. Hepcidin is mainly produced by the liver as a propeptide and processed by furin into the mature active peptide. Hepcidin binds ferroportin, the only cellular iron exporter, causing the internalization and degradation of both. Thus hepcidin blocks iron export from the key cells for dietary iron absorption (enterocytes), recycling of hemoglobin iron (the macrophages) and the release of storage iron from hepatocytes, resulting in the reduction of systemic iron availability. The BMP/HJV/SMAD pathway is the major regulator of hepcidin expression that responds to iron status. Also inflammation stimulates hepcidin via the IL6/STAT3 pathway with a support of an active BMP/HJV/SMAD pathway. In some pathological conditions hepcidin level is inadequately elevated and reduces iron availability in the body, resulting in anemia. These conditions occur in the genetic iron refractory iron deficiency anemia and the common anemia of chronic disease (ACD) or anemia of inflammation. Currently, there is no definite treatment for ACD. Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents and intravenous iron have been proposed in some cases but they are scarcely effective and may have adverse effects. Alternative approaches aimed to a pharmacological control of hepcidin expression have been attempted, targeting different regulatory steps. They include hepcidin sequestering agents (antibodies, anticalins, and aptamers), inhibitors of BMP/SMAD or of IL6/STAT3 pathway or of hepcidin transduction (siRNA/shRNA) or ferroportin stabilizers. In this review we summarized the biochemical interactions of the proteins involved in the BMP/HJV/SMAD pathway and its natural inhibitors, the murine and rat models with high hepcidin levels currently available and finally the progresses in the development of hepcidin antagonists, with particular attention to the role of heparins and heparin sulfate proteoglycans in hepcidin expression and modulation of the BMP6/SMAD pathway.
PMCID: PMC4009444  PMID: 24808863
hepcidin; heparin; anemia of chronic diseases; inflammation; iron metabolism
20.  Hepcidin Expression in Iron Overload Diseases Is Variably Modulated by Circulating Factors 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36425.
Hepcidin is a regulatory hormone that plays a major role in controlling body iron homeostasis. Circulating factors (holotransferrin, cytokines, erythroid regulators) might variably contribute to hepcidin modulation in different pathological conditions. There are few studies analysing the relationship between hepcidin transcript and related protein expression profiles in humans. Our aims were: a. to measure hepcidin expression at either hepatic, serum and urinary level in three paradigmatic iron overload conditions (hemochromatosis, thalassemia and dysmetabolic iron overload syndrome) and in controls; b. to measure mRNA hepcidin expression in two different hepatic cell lines (HepG2 and Huh-7) exposed to patients and controls sera to assess whether circulating factors could influence hepcidin transcription in different pathological conditions. Our findings suggest that hepcidin assays reflect hepatic hepcidin production, but also indicate that correlation is not ideal, likely due to methodological limits and to several post-trascriptional events. In vitro study showed that THAL sera down-regulated, HFE-HH and C-NAFLD sera up-regulated hepcidin synthesis. HAMP mRNA expression in Huh-7 cells exposed to sera form C-Donors, HFE-HH and THAL reproduced, at lower level, the results observed in HepG2, suggesting the important but not critical role of HFE in hepcidin regulation.
PMCID: PMC3346721  PMID: 22586470
21.  Serum hepcidin levels and iron parameters in children with iron deficiency 
The Korean Journal of Hematology  2012;47(4):286-292.
Iron deficiency (ID) and iron deficiency anemia (IDA) are common nutritional disorders in children. Hepcidin, a peptide hormone produced in the liver, is a central regulator of systemic iron metabolism. We evaluated whether serum hepcidin levels can diagnose ID in children.
Sera from 59 children (23 males and 36 females; 5 months to 17 years) were analyzed for hepcidin-25 by ELISA. Patients were classified according to hemoglobin level and iron parameters as: IDA, (N=17), ID (N=18), and control (N=24).
Serum hepcidin, ferritin, soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR), transferrin saturation, and hemoglobin levels differed significantly between groups (P<0.0001). Serum hepcidin and ferritin levels (mean±SD) were 2.01±2.30 and 7.00±7.86, 7.72±8.03 and 29.35±24.01, 16.71±14.74 and 46.40±43.57 ng/mL in the IDA, ID, and control groups, respectively. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve for serum hepcidin as a predictor of ID was 0.852 (95% CI, 0.755-0.950). Hepcidin ≤6.895 ng/mL had a sensitivity of 79.2% and specificity of 82.8% for the diagnosis of ID. Serum hepcidin levels were significantly correlated with ferritin, transferrin saturation, and hemoglobin levels and significantly negatively correlated with sTfR level and total iron binding capacity (P<0.0001).
Serum hepcidin levels are significantly associated with iron status and can be a useful indicator of ID. Further studies are necessary to validate these findings and determine a reliable cutoff value in children.
PMCID: PMC3538801  PMID: 23320008
Serum hepcidin; Iron deficiency; Children
22.  Serum-induced up-regulation of hepcidin expression involves the bone morphogenetic protein signaling pathway 
Biochemical and biophysical research communications  2013;441(2):10.1016/j.bbrc.2013.10.065.
Hepcidin is a peptide hormone that is secreted by the liver and that functions as the central regulator of systemic iron metabolism in mammals. Its expression is regulated at the transcriptional level by changes in iron status and iron requirements, and by inflammatory cues. There is considerable interest in understanding the mechanisms that influence hepcidin expression because dysregulation of hepcidin production is associated with a number of disease states and can lead to iron overload or iron-restricted anemia. In order to shed light on the factors that alter hepcidin expression, we carried out experiments with HepG2 and HuH7, human hepatoma cell lines that are widely used for this purpose. We found that the addition of heat-inactivated fetal calf serum to these cells resulted in a significant dose- and time-dependent up-regulation of hepcidin expression. Serum also activated signaling events known to be downstream of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP), a group of molecules that have been implicated previously in hepcidin regulation. Inhibition of these signals with dorsomorphin significantly suppressed serum-induced hepcidin up-regulation. Our results indicate that a BMP or BMP-like molecule present in serum may play an important role in regulating hepcidin expression.
PMCID: PMC3850278  PMID: 24157792
Iron metabolism; hepcidin; hepatocyte; serum
23.  Role of duodenal iron transporters and hepcidin in patients with alcoholic liver disease 
Patients with alcoholic liver disease (ALD) often display disturbed iron indices. Hepcidin, a key regulator of iron metabolism, has been shown to be down-regulated by alcohol in cell lines and animal models. This down-regulation led to increased duodenal iron transport and absorption in animals. In this study, we investigated gene expression of duodenal iron transport molecules and hepcidin in three groups of patients with ALD (with anaemia, with iron overload and without iron overload) and controls. Expression of DMT1, FPN1, DCYTB, HEPH, HFE and TFR1 was measured in duodenal biopsies by using real-time PCR and Western blot. Serum hepcidin levels were measured by using ELISA. Serum hepcidin was decreased in patients with ALD. At the mRNA level, expressions of DMT1, FPN1 and TFR1 genes were significantly increased in ALD. This pattern was even more pronounced in the subgroups of patients without iron overload and with anaemia. Protein expression of FPN1 paralleled the increase at the mRNA level in the group of patients with ALD. Serum ferritin was negatively correlated with DMT1 mRNA. The down-regulation of hepcidin expression leading to up-regulation of iron transporters expression in the duodenum seems to explain iron metabolism disturbances in ALD. Alcohol consumption very probably causes suppression of hepcidin expression in patients with ALD.
PMCID: PMC4196659  PMID: 24894955
DMT1; FPN1; DCYTB; HEPH; TFR1; HFE; hepcidin; alcoholic liver disease; iron; gene expression
24.  An Insight into the Relationships between Hepcidin, Anemia, Infections and Inflammatory Cytokines in Pediatric Refugees: A Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(12):e4030.
Hepcidin, a key regulator of iron homeostasis, is increased in response to inflammation and some infections, but the in vivo role of hepcidin, particularly in children with iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is unclear. We investigated the relationships between hepcidin, cytokines and iron status in a pediatric population with a high prevalence of both anemia and co-morbid infections.
Methodology/Principal Findings
African refugee children <16 years were consecutively recruited at the initial post-resettlement health check with 181 children meeting inclusion criteria. Data on hematological parameters, cytokine levels and co-morbid infections (Helicobacter pylori, helminth and malaria) were obtained and urinary hepcidin assays performed. The primary outcome measure was urinary hepcidin levels in children with and without iron deficiency (ID) and/or ID anaemia (IDA). The secondary outcome measures included were the relationship between co-morbid infections and (i) ID and IDA, (ii) urinary hepcidin levels and (iii) cytokine levels. IDA was present in 25/181 (13.8%). Children with IDA had significantly lower hepcidin levels (IDA median hepcidin 0.14 nmol/mmol Cr (interquartile range 0.05–0.061) versus non-IDA 2.96 nmol/mmol Cr, (IQR 0.95–6.72), p<0.001). Hemoglobin, log-ferritin, iron, mean cell volume (MCV) and transferrin saturation were positively associated with log-hepcidin levels (log-ferritin beta coefficient (β): 1.30, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.57) and transferrin was inversely associated (β: −0.12, 95% CI −0.15 to −0.08). Cytokine levels (including IL-6) and co-morbid infections were not associated with IDA or hepcidin levels.
This is the largest pediatric study of the in vivo associations between hepcidin, iron status and cytokines. Gastro-intestinal infections (H. pylori and helminths) did not elevate urinary hepcidin or IL-6 levels in refugee children, nor were they associated with IDA. Longitudinal and mechanistic studies of IDA will further elucidate the role of hepcidin in paediatric iron regulation.
PMCID: PMC2603326  PMID: 19107209
25.  Iron status in patients with chronic heart failure 
European Heart Journal  2012;34(11):827-834.
The changes in iron status occurring during the course of heart failure (HF) and the underlying pathomechanisms are largely unknown. Hepcidin, the major regulatory protein for iron metabolism, may play a causative role. We investigated iron status in a broad spectrum of patients with systolic HF in order to determine the changes in iron status in parallel with disease progression, and to associate iron status with long-term prognosis.
Methods and results
Serum concentrations of ferritin, transferrin saturation (Tsat), soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR), and hepcidin were assessed as the biomarkers of iron status in 321 patients with chronic systolic HF [age: 61 ± 11 years, men: 84%, left ventricular ejection fraction: 31 ± 9%, New York Heart Association (NYHA) class: 72/144/87/18] at a tertiary cardiology centre and 66 age- and gender-matched healthy subjects. Compared with healthy subjects, asymptomatic HF patients had similar haematological status, but increased iron stores (evidenced by higher serum ferritin without distinct inflammation, P < 0.01) with markedly elevated serum hepcidin (P < 0.001). With increasing HF severity, patients in advanced NYHA classes had iron deficiency (ID) (reduced serum ferritin, low Tsat, high sTfR), iron-restricted erythropoiesis (reduced haemoglobin, high red cell distribution width), and inflammation (high serum high-sensitivity-C-reactive protein and interleukin 6), which was accompanied by decreased circulating hepcidin (all P < 0.001). In multivariable Cox models, low hepcidin was independently associated with increased 3-year mortality among HF patients (P < 0.001).
Increased level of circulating hepcidin characterizes an early stage of HF, and is not accompanied by either anaemia or inflammation. The progression of HF is associated with the decline in circulating hepcidin and the development of ID. Low hepcidin independently relates to unfavourable outcome.
PMCID: PMC3697803  PMID: 23178646
Heart failure; Iron deficiency; Ferritin; Hepcidin; Prognosis

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