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Open Access Research article

Expression of iron-related genes in human brain and brain tumors

Milla M Hänninen1, Joonas Haapasalo2, Hannu Haapasalo2, Robert E Fleming34, Robert S Britton5, Bruce R Bacon5 and Seppo Parkkila1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Medical Technology and School of Medicine, University of Tampere, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland

2 Department of Pathology, Centre for Laboratory Medicine, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland

3 Department of Pediatrics, Saint Louis University Liver Center, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

4 Edward A. Doisy Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Saint Louis University Liver Center, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri, USA

5 Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Saint Louis University Liver Center, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri, USA

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BMC Neuroscience 2009, 10:36  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-10-36

Published: 22 April 2009

Abstract

Background

Defective iron homeostasis may be involved in the development of some diseases within the central nervous system. Although the expression of genes involved in normal iron balance has been intensively studied in other tissues, little is known about their expression in the brain. We investigated the mRNA levels of hepcidin (HAMP), HFE, neogenin (NEO1), transferrin receptor 1 (TFRC), transferrin receptor 2 (TFR2), and hemojuvelin (HFE2) in normal human brain, brain tumors, and astrocytoma cell lines. The specimens included 5 normal brain tissue samples, 4 meningiomas, one medulloblastoma, 3 oligodendrocytic gliomas, 2 oligoastrocytic gliomas, 8 astrocytic gliomas, and 3 astrocytoma cell lines.

Results

Except for hemojuvelin, all genes studied had detectable levels of mRNA. In most tumor types, the pattern of gene expression was diverse. Notable findings include high expression of transferrin receptor 1 in the hippocampus and medulla oblongata compared to other brain regions, low expression of HFE in normal brain with elevated HFE expression in meningiomas, and absence of hepcidin mRNA in astrocytoma cell lines despite expression in normal brain and tumor specimens.

Conclusion

These results indicate that several iron-related genes are expressed in normal brain, and that their expression may be dysregulated in brain tumors.