The role of NO in macrophage iron turnover was studied in macrophages from inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS)-deficient mice. Interferon γ/lipopolysaccharide (IFNγ/LPS)-activated bone marrow-derived macrophages from iNOS-deficient mice, following phagocytosis of 59Fe-labelled transferrin—anti-transferrin immune complexes, showed reduced iron release compared with cells from wild-type iNOS littermates. Uptake of the complexes by macrophages was similar in iNOS-deficient and wild-type mice. Ferritin was up-regulated by IFNγ/LPS treatment, but NO exercised a modest opposing down-regulatory effect. No effect of iNOS deficiency was seen when iron was taken up from iron citrate, which enters via a non-phagocytic route. These results suggest that NO plays a key role in regulating iron turnover in macrophages acquiring iron by phagocytosis of erythrocytes or cell debris, and thus the supply to peripheral tissues, such as to the bone marrow for erythropoiesis.

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