Atherosclerosis is aggravated by iron overload and ameliorated by dietary and pharmacological iron restriction
Authors: Vinchi F, Porto G, Simmelbauer A, Altamura S, Passos ST, Garbowski M, Silva AMN, Spaich S, Seide SE, Sparla R, Hentze MW, Muckenthaler MU
CellNetworks People: Hentze Matthias, Muckenthaler Martina
Journal: Eur Heart J. 2019 Mar 20. pii: ehz112. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehz112

Whether and how iron affects the progression of atherosclerosis remains highly debated. Here, we investigate susceptibility to atherosclerosis in a mouse model (ApoE-/- FPNwt/C326S), which develops the disease in the context of elevated non-transferrin bound serum iron (NTBI).

Compared with normo-ferremic ApoE-/- mice, atherosclerosis is profoundly aggravated in iron-loaded ApoE-/- FPNwt/C326S mice, suggesting a pro-atherogenic role for iron. Iron heavily deposits in the arterial media layer, which correlates with plaque formation, vascular oxidative stress and dysfunction. Atherosclerosis is exacerbated by iron-triggered lipid profile alterations, vascular permeabilization, sustained endothelial activation, elevated pro-atherogenic inflammatory mediators, and reduced nitric oxide availability. NTBI causes iron overload, induces reactive oxygen species production and apoptosis in cultured vascular cells, and stimulates massive MCP-1-mediated monocyte recruitment, well-established mechanisms contributing to atherosclerosis. NTBI-mediated toxicity is prevented by transferrin- or chelator-mediated iron scavenging. Consistently, a low-iron diet and iron chelation therapy strongly improved the course of the disease in ApoE-/- FPNwt/C326S mice. Our results are corroborated by analyses of serum samples of haemochromatosis patients, which show an inverse correlation between the degree of iron depletion and hallmarks of endothelial dysfunction and inflammation.

Our data demonstrate that NTBI-triggered iron overload aggravates atherosclerosis and unravel a causal link between NTBI and the progression of atherosclerotic lesions. Our findings support clinical applications of iron restriction in iron-loaded individuals to counteract iron-aggravated vascular dysfunction and atherosclerosis.