It has been proposed that elevated levels of tissue iron increase the risk for atherosclerosis, perhaps by favoring the formation of pro-atherogenic oxidized LDL. Working with apoE-deficient (apoE–/–) mice, which do not require a high-fat diet to develop atherosclerosis, we compared the effects of standard diet (0.02% iron) or a 2% carbonyl iron diet. After 24 weeks, mice fed the 2% carbonyl iron diet had twice as much iron in their plasma, a ninefold increase in bleomycin-detectable free iron in their plasma, and ten times as much iron in their livers as control mice. Dietary iron overload caused a modest (30%) rise in plasma triglyceride and cholesterol. Nevertheless, this regimen did not exacerbate, but rather reduced the severity of atherosclerosis by 50%, and it failed to elevate hepatic levels of heme oxygenase mRNA, which is induced by many different oxidative insults in vitro. Moreover, hepatic levels of protein-bound dityrosine and ortho-tyrosine, two markers of metal-catalyzed oxidative damage in vitro, failed to rise in iron-overloaded animals. Our observations suggest that elevated serum and tissue levels of iron are not atherogenic in apoE–/– mice. Moreover, they call into question the hypothesis that elevated levels of tissue iron promote LDL oxidation and oxidative stress in vivo.
Elizabeth A. Kirk, Jay W. Heinecke, Renée C. LeBoeuf
Tissue and serum iron parameters for apoE–/– mice fed 0.02% and 2.0% iron dietsA