Prion protein (PrP) knock-out mice show altered iron metabolism: A functional role for PrP in iron uptake and transport

Ajay Singh, Qingzhong Kong, Xiu Luo, Robert B. Petersen, Howard Meyerson, Neena Singh

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83 Scopus citations


Despite overwhelming evidence implicating the prion protein (PrP) in prion disease pathogenesis, the normal function of this cell surface glycoprotein remains unclear. In previous reports we demonstrated that PrP mediates cellular iron uptake and transport, and aggregation of PrP to the disease causing PrP-scrapie (PrPSc) form results in imbalance of iron homeostasis in prion disease affected human and animal brains. Here, we show that selective deletion of PrP in transgenic mice (PrPKO) alters systemic iron homeostasis as reflected in hematological parameters and levels of total iron and iron regulatory proteins in the plasma, liver, spleen, and brain of PrPKO mice relative to matched wild type controls. Introduction of radiolabeled iron (59FeCl3) to Wt and PrPKO mice by gastric gavage reveals inefficient transport of 59Fe from the duodenum to the blood stream, an early abortive spike of erythropoiesis in the long bones and spleen, and eventual decreased 59Fe content in red blood cells and all major organs of PrPKO mice relative to Wt controls. The iron deficient phenotype of PrPKO mice is reversed by expressing Wt PrP in the PrPKO background, demonstrating a functional role for PrP in iron uptake and transport. Since iron is required for essential metabolic processes and is also potentially toxic if mismanaged, these results suggest that loss of normal function of PrP due to aggregation to the PrPSc form induces imbalance of brain iron homeostasis, resulting in disease associated neurotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere6115
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2009


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