Hepcidin, a 25 amino-acid liver hormone, has recently emerged as the key regulator of iron homeostasis. Proteomic studies in limited number of subjects have shown that biological fluids can also contain truncated isoforms, whose role remains to be elucidated. We report, for the first time, data about serum levels of the hepcidin-20 isoform (hep-20) in a general population, taking advantage of the Val Borbera (VB) study where hepcidin-25 (hep-25) was measured by SELDI-TOF-MS. Detectable amount of hep-20 were found in sera from 854 out of 1577 subjects (54.2%), and its levels were about 14% of hep-25 levels. A small fraction of subjects (n = 30, 1.9%) had detectable hep-20 but undetectable hep-25. In multivariate regression models, significant predictors of hep-20 were hep-25 and age in males, and hep-25, age, serum ferritin and body mass index in females. Of note, the hep-25:hep-20 ratio was not constant in the VB population, but increased progressively with increasing ferritin levels. This is not consistent with the simplistic view of hep-20 as a mere catabolic byproduct of hep-25. Although a possible active regulation of hep-20 production needs further confirmation, our results may also have implications for immunoassays for serum hepcidin based on antibodies lacking specificity for hep-25.
This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Integrated omics.
► Hepcidin, a 25 amino acid hormone, is the key regulator of iron metabolism. ► We measured, for the first time, serum hepcidin-20 at population level by SELDI-TOF-MS. ► Detectable amount of hepcidin 20 were found in more than half of 1577 individuals. ► The Hep25:hep20 ratio was not constant but increased with increasing iron stores. ► Our results point toward a possible active regulation of hepcidin-20 production.