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Life savers in the gut
Date:1/9/2008

Researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) have discovered that proteins that regulate the body's iron household play a vital role in making sure enough nutrients and water are absorbed in the intestine. Mice lacking these proteins suffer from weight loss and dehydration, the scientists report in the current issue of Cell Metabolism.

Iron is a central component of red blood cells and has many other important functions throughout the body. Since too little or too much iron is dangerous for our health a range of regulatory proteins tightly controls iron metabolism. EMBL scientists now assessed the role of two of these proteins, iron regulatory proteins 1 and 2 (IRPs), for the first time in living mice and found that their effects are much broader than previously assumed.

We generated the first living organism lacking both IRPs in one of its organs,?says Bruno Galy, who carried out the research in the lab of Matthias Hentze at EMBL. This was extremely challenging, because if both proteins are switched off throughout the whole body, the mouse dies before birth. But if you switch off only one IRP, the one that is still intact substitutes and you can hardly see any effects.?

Surprisingly, the lack of IRPs in the intestine did not upset the mice's iron household in blood and tissues. Instead the mice suffered from other, unexpected problems: they weighed only half of their normal littermates, suffered from severe dehydration and died only 4 weeks after birth. The general nutrient and water absorption in the gut was impaired. A closer look at the intestinal tissues revealed that their structure and organisation were completely disturbed, which likely affects all absorption processes that happen in intestinal cells. The findings show that IRPs are essential for intestinal function and the survival of an organism, but the details of how they accomplish their effects is unclear.

Although the global iron household was unaffected b
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Contact: Anna-Lynn Wegener
anna.wegener@embl.de
49-622-138-78452
European Molecular Biology Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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