A computational model to understand mouse iron physiology and disease

by Jignesh H. Parmar, Pedro Mendes

It is well known that iron is an essential element for life but is toxic when in excess or in certain forms. Accordingly there are many diseases that result directly from either lack or excess of iron. Yet many molecular and physiological aspects of iron regulation have only been discovered recently and others are still elusive. There is still no good quantitative and dynamic description of iron absorption, distribution, storage and mobilization that agrees with the wide array of phenotypes presented in several iron-related diseases. The present work addresses this issue by developing a mathematical model of iron distribution in mice calibrated with ferrokinetic data and subsequently validated against data from mouse models of iron disorders, such as hemochromatosis, β-thalassemia, atransferrinemia and anemia of inflammation. To adequately fit the ferrokinetic data required inclusion of the following mechanisms: a) transferrin-mediated iron delivery to tissues, b) induction of hepcidin by transferrin-bound iron, c) ferroportin-dependent iron export regulated by hepcidin, d) erythropoietin regulation of erythropoiesis, and e) liver uptake of NTBI. The utility of the model to simulate disease interventions was demonstrated by using it to investigate the outcome of different schedules of transferrin treatment in β-thalassemia.

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