Dietary iron overload inhibits carbon tetrachloride-induced promotion in chemical hepatocarcinogenesis: effects on cell proliferation, apoptosis, and antioxidation

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The aim of this study was to investigate if feeding with carbonyl iron would facilitate the development of preneoplastic lesions initiated by diethylnitrosamine (DEN) and promoted by CCl4-induced liver cirrhosis.


Male Wistar rats were fed a diet with 1.25%-2.5% carbonyl iron for 23 weeks and received intragastric injections of CCl4 (1.0 or 2.0 ml/kg per week) for 13 weeks, followed by one i.p. injection of DEN (200 mg/kg), after which CCl4 was administered for 8 additional weeks. Animals were killed 48 h after the first CCl4 injection to evaluate liver necrosis, 8 weeks later to evaluate fibrosis, and 9 weeks after DEN to determine formation of glutathione S-transferase 7,7 (GST-7,7) positive foci.


Treatment with iron counteracted the increased serum alanine aminotransferase levels and liver necrosis following CCl4 administration. Hepatic levels of reduced Q9 and α-tocopherol were elevated in rats treated with CCl4 and decreased in rats treated with iron compared to the controls. Fibrogenesis was not altered by iron treatment. Nine weeks after DEN initiation, the number and volume density of GST-7,7-positive foci in rats treated with CCl4 were significantly increased as compared with controls, but co-treatment with iron inhibited this increase. Apoptotic index was increased in iron-loaded livers, and labelling index (the fraction of S-phase hepatocytes) was decreased by cotreatment with iron in livers exposed to CCl4.


Carbonyl iron depleted hepatic levels of antioxidants, it decreased CCl4-induced necrosis and cell proliferation, it enhanced apoptosis and did not facilitate fibrogenesis. These effects together may explain the suppression of CCl4-induced promotion after DEN initiation exerted by carbonyl iron in the present study.

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