Sex differences in iron status and hepcidin expression in rats.
Studies have shown that men and women exhibit significant differences regarding iron status. However, the effects of sex on iron accumulation and distribution are not well established. In this study, female and male Sprague-Dawley rats were killed at 4 months of age. Blood samples were analyzed to determine the red blood cell (RBC) count, hemoglobin (Hb) concentration, hematocrit (Hct), and mean red blood cell volume (MCV). The serum samples were analyzed to determine the concentrations of serum iron (SI), transferrin saturation (TS), ferritin, soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR), and erythropoietin (EPO). The tissue nonheme iron concentrations were measured in the liver, spleen, bone marrow, kidney, heart, gastrocnemius, duodenal epithelium, lung, pallium, cerebellum, hippocampus, and striatum. Hepatic hepcidin expression was detected by real-time PCR analysis. The synthesis of ferroportin 1 (FPN1) in the liver, spleen, kidney, and bone marrow was determined by Western blot analysis. The synthesis of duodenal cytochrome B561 (DcytB), divalent metal transporter 1 (DMT1), FPN1, hephaestin (HP) in the duodenal epithelium was also measured by Western blot analysis. The results showed that the RBC, Hb, and Hct in male rats were higher than those in female rats. The SI and plasma TS levels were lower in male rats than in female rats. The levels of serum ferritin and sTfR were higher in male rats than in female rats. The EPO levels in male rats were lower than that in female rats. The nonheme iron contents in the liver, spleen, bone marrow, and kidney in male rats were also lower (56.7, 73.2, 60.6, and 61.4 % of female rats, respectively). Nonheme iron concentrations in the heart, gastrocnemius, duodenal epithelium, lung, and brain were similar in rats of both sexes. A moderate decrease in hepatic hepcidin mRNA content was also observed in male rats (to 56.0 % of female rats). The levels of FPN1 protein in the liver, spleen, and kidney were higher in male rats than in female rats. There was no significant change in FPN1 expression in bone marrow. Significant difference was also not found in DcytB, DMT1, FPN1, and HP protein levels in the duodenal epithelium between male and female rats. These data suggest that iron is distributed differently in male and female rats. This difference in iron distribution may be associated with the difference in the hepcidin level.