A comparison of the suppression of human transferrin synthesis by lead and lipopolysaccharide

Katrina M. Barnum-Huckins, Andrew O. Martinez, Edna V. Rivera, Erle K. Adrian, Damon C. Herbert, Frank J. Weaker, Christi A. Walter, Gwen S. Adrian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Transferrin, as the major iron-transport protein in serum and other body fluids, has a central role in managing iron the body receives. Liver is a major site of transferrin synthesis, and in this study we present evidence that liver synthesis of human transferrin is suppressed by both the toxic metal lead and bacterial lipopolysaccharide, an inducer of the hepatic acute phase response. The responses of intact endogenous transferrin in the human hepatoma cell line HepG2 and chimeric human transferrin-chloramphenicol acetyltransferase genes in transgenic mice were examined. In HepG2 cells, 35S-transferrin protein synthesis and mRNA levels were suppressed by 100 μM and 10 μM lead acetate as early as 24 h after the initial treatment. Yet, synthesis of two proteins known to respond in the hepatic acute phase reaction, complement C3 and albumin, was not altered by the lead treatment. In transgenic mouse liver, lead suppressed expression of chimeric human transferrin genes at both the protein and mRNA. levels, but LPS only suppressed at the protein level. The study indicates that lead suppresses human transferrin synthesis by a mechanism that differs from the hepatic acute phase response and that lead may also affect iron metabolism in humans by interfering with transferrin levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-22
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 14 1997


  • HepG2
  • Lead
  • Lipopolysaccharide
  • Transferrin
  • Transgenic mice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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