Modulation of hepatic ferrochelatase activity by dietary manipulation of mitochondrial phospholipid fatty acyl groups


  • Portions of this study were presented at the American Gastroenterological Association/American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases meeting in Chicago, Illinois, May, 1987 (Gastroenterology 1987; 92:1745, Abstract) and the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases meeting in Chicago, Illinois, November, 1987 (Hepatology 1987; 7:1052, Abstract).


Ferrochelatase is an enzyme bound to the inner mitochondrial membrane, which is important in heme biosynthesis. Activity of purified ferrochelatase is affected by the presence of certain fatty acids. In the present study, we examined whether the activity of ferrochelatase is altered by dietary manipulation of the composition of mitochondrial membrane phospholipid fatty acylgroups.

Rats were fed diets containing triolein, safflower or menhaden oil as 5% (w/w) of the diet. After 3 weeks, the animals were killed and liver mitochondria were isolated. Phospholipid fatty acid composition and ferrochelatase activity were assayed in the isolated mitochondria. Marked differences were seen. The proportion of oleic acid was highest in the triolein oil-fed group, that of linoleic and arachidonic acid was highest in the safflower oil-fed group and the proportion of eicosapentaenoic acid was highest in the menhaden oil-fed group. Ferrochelatase activity was greatest in the triolein oilfed group and lowest in the menhaden oil-fed group regardless of whether the mitochondria were intact, sonicated or sonicated and treated with Tween 20. Mixing of mitochondria from menhaden oil-fed rats with triolein oil resulted in a significant increase in ferrochelatase activity. Membrane fluidity and activities of the mitochondrial membrane enzymes succinic dehydrogenase and cytochrome oxidase did not differ among the groups.

We conclude that dietary manipulation of mitochondrial membrane phospholipid fatty acyl group composition can directly modulate hepatic ferrochelatase activity. This has potential application in the treatment of protoporphyria, the genetic disorder in which ferrochelatase activity is deficient.