Probability of C282Y homozygosity decreases as liver transaminase activities increase in participants with hyperferritinemia in the hemochromatosis and iron overload screening study


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.

  • The Hemochromatosis and Iron Overload Screening Study was initiated and funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, in conjunction with the National Human Genome Research Institute. The study was supported by contracts N01-HC-05185 (University of Minnesota), N01-HC-05186 (Howard University), N01-HC-05188 (University of Alabama at Birmingham), N01-HC-05189 (Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research), N01-HC-05190 (University of California, Irvine), N01-HC-05191 (London Health Sciences Center), and N01-HC-05192 (Wake Forest University).


Hemochromatosis is considered by many to be an uncommon disorder, although the prevalence of HFE (High Iron) 282 Cys → Tyr (C282Y) homozygosity is relatively high in Caucasians. Liver disease is one of the most consistent findings in advanced iron overload resulting from hemochromatosis. Liver clinics are often thought to be ideal venues for diagnosis of hemochromatosis, but diagnosis rates are often low. The Hemochromatosis and Iron Overload Screening (HEIRS) Study screened 99,711 primary care participants in North America for iron overload using serum ferritin and transferrin saturation measurements and HFE genotyping. In this HEIRS substudy, serum hepatic transaminases activities (e.g., alanine aminotransferase [ALT] and aspartate aminotransferase [AST]) were compared between 162 C282Y homozygotes and 1,367 nonhomozygotes with serum ferritin levels >300 μg/L in men and >200 μg/L in women and transferrin saturation >45% in women and 50% in men. The probability of being a C282Y homozygote was determined for AST and ALT ranges. Mean ALT and AST activities were significantly lower in C282Y homozygotes than nonhomozygotes. The probability of being a C282Y homozygote increased as the ALT and AST activities decreased. Conclusion: Patients with hyperferritinemia are more likely to be C282Y homozygotes if they have normal liver transaminase activities. This paradox could explain the low yields of hemochromatosis screening reported by some liver clinics. (HEPATOLOGY 2012;55:1722–1726)