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Open Access A Novel Rat Model of Hereditary Hemochromatosis Due to a Mutation in Transferrin Receptor 2

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Sporadic iron overload in rats has been reported, but whether it is due to genetic or environmental causes is unknown. In the current study, phenotypic analysis of Hsd:HHCL Wistar rats revealed a low incidence of histologically detected liver iron overload. Here we characterized the pathophysiology of the iron overload and showed that the phenotype is heritable and due to a mutation in a single gene. We identified a single male rat among the 132 screened animals that exhibited predominantly periportal, hepatocellular iron accumulation. This rat expressed low RNA levels of the iron regulatory hormone hepcidin and low protein levels of transferrin receptor 2 (Tfr2), a membrane protein essential for hepcidin expression in humans and mice and mutated in forms of hereditary hemochromatosis. Sequencing of Tfr2 in the iron-overloaded rat revealed a novel Ala679Gly polymorphism in a highly conserved residue. Quantitative trait locus mapping indicated that this polymorphism correlated strongly with serum iron and transferrin saturations in male rats. Expression of the Gly679 variant in tissue culture cell lines revealed decreased steady-state levels of Tfr2. Characterization of iron metabolism in the progeny of polymorphic rats suggested that homozygosity for the Ala679Gly allele leads to a hemochromatosis phenotype. However, we currently cannot exclude the possibility that a polymorphism or mutation in the noncoding region of Tfr2 contributes to the iron-overload phenotype. Hsd:HHCL rats are the first genetic rat model of hereditary hemochromatosis and may prove useful for understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of iron metabolism.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA. [email protected] 2: Harlan Laboratories, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA 3: Division of Genetics and Program in Genomics, Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA 4: MPI Research, Mattawan, Michigan, USA 5: Department of Pathology, Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Publication date: 2013-04-01

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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