Hepatic iron overload causes lipocyte activation with resultant fibrogenesis. This study examines whether rat lipocytes express ferritin receptors, which could be involved in paracellular iron movement and in cellular regulation. Lipocytes from normal rat liver were cultured on plastic and incubated with 125I-labeled rat liver ferritin (RLF) +/- a 100-fold excess of either unlabeled RLF or human heart ferritin, human liver ferritin, human recombinant H-ferritin, a mutant human recombinant L-ferritin, or a variety of nonspecific proteins. Specific binding sites for ferritin were demonstrated by displacement of 125I-RLF by RLF (64.5 +/- 4.3%) and by other ferritins (55-60%), but not by recombinant L-ferritin. Scatchard analysis demonstrated a single class of binding sites with a Kd of 5.1 +/- 2.9 x 10(-10) M, maximum binding capacity of 4.7 +/- 1.3 x 10(-12) M, and 5,000-10,000 receptor sites/cell. Ferritin receptor expression was observed only in activated lipocytes. Internalization of RLF was observed within 15 min using FITC-RLF and confocal microscopy. This study demonstrates that (a) activated lipocytes express a specific high affinity ferritin receptor; (b) the binding appears to be dependent on the H-ferritin subunit; and (c) lipocytes internalize ferritin. Expression of ferritin receptors in activated lipocytes suggests that the receptor may either be involved in the activation cascade or may be a marker of activation.


G A Ramm, R S Britton, R O'Neill, B R Bacon


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