The liver plays a pivotal role in the regulation of iron metabolism through its ability to sense and respond to iron stores by release of the hormone hepcidin. Under physiologic conditions, regulation of hepcidin expression in response to iron status maintains iron homeostasis. In response to tissue injury, hepcidin expression can be modulated by other factors, such as inflammation and oxidative stress. The resulting dysregulation of hepcidin is proposed to account for alterations in iron homeostasis that are sometimes observed in patients with liver disease. This review describes the effects of experimental forms of liver injury on iron metabolism and hepcidin expression. In general, models of acute liver injury demonstrate increases in hepcidin mRNA and hypoferremia, consistent with hepcidin's role as an acute-phase reactant. Conversely, diverse models of chronic liver injury are associated with decreased hepcidin mRNA but with variable effects on iron status. Elucidating the reasons for the disparate impact of different chronic injuries on iron metabolism is an important research priority, as is a deeper understanding of the interplay among various stimuli, both positive and negative, on hepcidin regulation. Future studies should provide a clearer picture of how dysregulation of hepcidin expression and altered iron homeostasis impact the progression of liver diseases and whether they are a cause or consequence of these pathologies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine