Increased serum hepcidin levels in patients with porphyria cutanea tarda


  • Conflict of interest
    G.O. and M.W. are officers or employees of Intrinsic Lifesciences LLC and have ownership interest in the company. Intrinsic Lifesciences LLC is the laboratory that performed the serum hepcidin immunoassay described in this manuscript. E.D., J.T-F., R.M-L., R.D., J. S-T., C.M. and C.H. declare no competing financial interests.

  • Funding sources
    This study was supported by a research grant (Emili Letang 2009 grants) from Hospital Clinic de Barcelona to Esteve Darwich, and with the collaboration of ‘La Fundació per la Promoció de la Dermatologia de Catalunya’.

E. Darwich.


Background  Increased iron stores- are common in porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT) patients, but the pathophysiological pathways remain unknown. Down-regulation of hepcidin, a peptide which regulates systemic iron homeostasis, has been demonstrated in different conditions associated with PCT, such as haemochromatosis, chronic hepatitis C (CHC) and excessive alcohol intake. However, serum hepcidin levels have not yet been studied in PCT patients.

Objective  To measure the serum hepcidin levels in patients with PCT, CHC and control patients, and to assess the association of hepcidin with serum markers of inflammation, iron overload and oxidative stress.

Methods  Hepcidin levels were measured by a competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in serum samples of patients presenting PCT (= 30), CHC (= 31) and healthy volunteers (= 52).

Results  The mean of serum hepcidin levels was significantly higher in the PCT group (129.6 ng/mL) in comparison with the mean values in the CHC (41.3 ng/mL) and control (70.8 ng/mL) groups. The serum concentration of ferritin and interleukin-6 (IL-6) was also significantly higher in the PCT group, and correlated strongly with the hepcidin levels. The PCT patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection showed significantly higher hepcidin levels than the group of CHC patients without porphyria.

Conclusion  Serum hepcidin levels are increased in patients with PCT suggesting that the mechanisms regulating iron homeostasis in PCT differ from those involved in other related disorders, such as haemochromatosis, HCV infection or alcohol abuse.