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Keywords:

  • haptoglobin;
  • iron;
  • haemochromatosis

Summary. In the UK, 90% of patients with hereditary haemochromatosis (HH) are homozygous for HFE C282Y, as are one in 150 people in the general population. However, only a minority of these will develop clinical haemochromatosis. Iron loss modifies iron accumulation but so may other genetic factors. Haptoglobin (Hp) exists as three major types (Hp 1-1, Hp 2-1 or Hp 2-2) and binds free plasma haemoglobin. In men, Hp 2-2 has been shown to be associated with increased macrophage iron accumulation and serum ferritin concentration. Furthermore, the frequency of Hp 2-2 was shown to be increased in patients with HH. We determined Hp types by phenotyping and genotyping 265 blood donor control subjects and 173 subjects who were homozygous for HFE C282Y. The latter group included 66 blood donors lacking clinical features suggestive of haemochromatosis and without a known family history, and 68 patients presenting clinically with haemochromatosis. Hp 2-2 frequencies did not differ in control subjects and C282Y homozygotes. Hp 2-2 was not a risk factor for disease development in HH. To investigate the relationship between iron accumulation and haptoglobin type, we determined transferrin saturation and serum ferritin concentration in 192 male, first-time blood donors aged 20–40 years who lacked both HFE C282Y and H63D. Transferrin saturation and serum ferritin concentrations did not vary with Hp type.