Serum prohepcidin concentration: no association with iron absorption in healthy men; and no relationship with iron status in men carrying HFE mutations, hereditary haemochromatosis patients undergoing phlebotomy treatment, or pregnant women

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Abstract

Hepcidin plays a major role in iron homeostasis, but understanding its role has been hampered by the absence of analytical methods for quantification in blood. A commercial ELISA has been developed for serum prohepcidin, a hepcidin precursor, and there is interest in its potential use in the clinical and research arena. We investigated the association between serum prohepcidin concentration and iron absorption in healthy men, and its relationship with iron status in men carrying HFE mutations, hereditary haemochromatosis patients, and pregnant women. Iron absorption was determined in thirty healthy men (fifteen wild-type, fifteen C282Y heterozygote) using the stable isotope red cell incorporation technique. Iron status was measured in 138 healthy men (ninety-one wild-type, forty-seven C282Y heterozygote), six hereditary haemochromatosis patients, and thirteen pregnant women. Mean serum prohepcidin concentrations were 214 (SD 118) ng/ml [208 (SD 122) ng/ml in wild-type and 225 (SD 109) ng/ml in C282Y heterozygotes] in healthy men, 177 (SD 36) ng/ml in haemochromatosis patients, and 159 (SD 59) ng/ml in pregnant women. There was no relationship between serum prohepcidin concentration and serum ferritin in any subject groups, nor was it associated with efficiency of iron absorption. Serum prohepcidin is not a useful biomarker for clinical or research purposes.

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