Fetal liver hepcidin secures iron stores in utero.
Kämmerer L., Mohammad GH., Wolna M., Robbins P., Lakhal-Littleton S.
In the adult, the liver-derived hormone hepcidin (HAMP) controls systemic iron levels by blocking the iron-exporting protein ferroportin (FPN) in the gut and spleen, the sites of iron absorption and recycling respectively. Impaired HAMP expression or FPN responsiveness to HAMP result in iron overload. HAMP is also expressed in the fetal liver but its role in controlling fetal iron stores is not understood. To address this question in a manner that safeguards against the confounding effects of altered maternal iron homeostasis, we generated fetuses harbouring a paternally-inherited ubiquitous knock-in of the HAMP-resistant fpnC326Y. Additionally, to safeguard against any confounding effects of altered placental iron homeostasis, we generated fetuses with a liver-specific knock-in of fpnC326Y or knockout of the hamp gene. These fetuses had reduced liver iron stores and hemoglobin, and markedly increased FPN in the liver, but not in the placenta. Thus, fetal liver HAMP operates cell-autonomously to increase fetal liver iron stores. Our findings also suggest that FPN in the placenta is not actively regulated by fetal liver HAMP under normal physiological conditions.