Intestinal over-expression of iron transporters induces iron overload in birds in captivity

Asli Mete, Ruud Jalving, Bernard A. Van Oost, Jaap E. Van Dijk, Joannes J M Marx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Hereditary hemochromatosis (HH) is a frequent genetic disease of older subjects of northern European descent. It is characterized by increased iron absorption and severe iron overloading in parenchymal organs. A similar disturbance of iron metabolism occurs in specific animal species in captivity. To address the key features leading to high absorption and thus to iron overload in these animals, we have studied the two iron transport proteins DMT1 and Ireg1 in the best-known susceptible species, the mynah bird. Here, we show that these birds have a high expression of DMT1 in the duodenum and also a strikingly high expression of Ireg1 along the whole small intestine. We believe that the iron accumulation in susceptible species only occurs in captivity because of a genotypic adaptation to their natural environment, where contrary to captivity, dietary iron is hardly available. The Caucasian population carrying mutations leading to iron overload today may have also benefited from the genetic advantage of up-regulating iron transport millennia ago, when dietary iron was scarce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-156
Number of pages6
JournalBlood Cells, Molecules, and Diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Birds
  • DMT1
  • Hereditary hemochromatosis
  • Ireg1
  • Iron overload

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Hematology


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