Iron importers Zip8 and Zip14 are expressed in retina and regulated by retinal iron levels

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Intracellular retinal iron accumulation has been implicated in the pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of irreversible blindness among individuals over the age of 50. Ceruloplasmin/hephaestin double knockout mice (Cp/Heph DKO) and hepcidin knockout mice (Hepc KO) accumulate retinal iron and model some features of AMD. Two canonical pathways govern cellular iron import – transferrin-bound iron import and non-transferrin bound iron import. In Cp/Heph DKO and Hepc KO iron-loaded retinas, transferrin-bound iron import is downregulated. Despite this effort to reduce cellular iron burden, iron continues to accumulate in these retinas in an age-dependent manner. Quantitative RT-PCR and Western analysis were used to quantify the expression of three ferrous iron importers, Dmt1, Zip8, and Zip14, in wild-type (Wt), Cp/Heph DKO, and Hepc KO retinas. Zip8 and Zip14 protein levels were analyzed using Western analysis in mice injected intravitreally with either apo- or holo-transferrin to elucidate one possible mechanism of Zip14 regulation in the retina. Both zip8 and zip14 were expressed in the mouse retina. Paradoxically, protein levels of non-transferrin bound iron importers were upregulated in both Cp/Heph DKO and Hepc KO retinas. Intravitreal holo-transferrin injection decreased Zip 14 protein levels. These data indicate that Zip8 and Zip14 may take up increasing amounts of non-transferrin bound iron in these two mouse models of retinal iron accumulation. Their upregulation in these already iron-loaded retinas suggests a vicious cycle leading to toxicity.

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