Hypoxia Alters Iron Homeostasis and Induces Ferritin Synthesis in Oligodendrocytes


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. G. Dawson at MC4068, Department of Pediatrics, University of Chicago, 5841 S. Maryland Ave., Chicago, IL 60637, U.S.A.


Abstract: Both iron and the major iron-binding protein ferritin are enriched in oligodendrocytes compared with astrocytes and neurons, but their functional role remains to be determined. Progressive hypoxia dramatically induces the synthesis of ferritin in both neonatal rat oligodendrocytes and a human oligodendroglioma cell line. We now report that the release of iron from either transferrin or ferritin-bound iron, after a decrease in intracellular pH, also leads to the induction of ferritin synthesis. The hypoxic induction of ferritin synthesis can be blocked either with iron chelators (deferoxamine or phenanthroline) or by preventing intracellular acidification (which is required for the release of transferrin-bound iron) with weak base treatment (ammonium chloride and amantadine). Two sources of exogenous iron (hemin and ferric ammonium citrate) were able to stimulate ferritin synthesis in both oligodendrocytes and HOG in the absence of hypoxia. This was not additive to the hypoxic stimulation, suggesting a common mechanism. We also show that ferritin induction may require intracellular free radical formation because hypoxia-mediated ferritin synthesis can be further enhanced by cotreatment with hydrogen peroxide. This in turn was blocked by the addition of exogenous catalase to the culture medium. Our data suggest that disruption of intracellular free iron homeostasis is an early event in hypoxic oligodendrocytes and that ferritin may serve as an iron sequestrator and antioxidant to protect cells from subsequent iron-catalyzed lipid peroxidation injury.