J Cell Biochem 2019 Aug 10;120(8):14076-14087. Epub 2019 Apr 10.
Laboratory of Molecular Iron Metabolism, The Key Laboratory of Animal Physiology, Biochemistry, and Molecular Biology of Hebei Province, College of Life Science, Hebei Normal University, Shijiazhuang, Hebei, China.
Intermittent hypobaric hypoxia can produce a protective effect on both the nervous system and non-nervous system tissues. Intermittent hypobaric hypoxia preconditioning has been shown to protect rats from cardiac ischemia-reperfusion injury by decreasing cardiac iron levels and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, thereby decreasing oxidative stress to achieve protection. However, the specific mechanism underlying the protective effect of hypobaric hypoxia is unclear. To shed light on this phenomenon, we subjected Sprague-Dawley rats to hypobaric hypoxic preconditioning (8 hours/day). The treatment was continued for 4 weeks. We then measured the iron content in the heart, liver, spleen, and kidney. The iron levels in all of the assessed tissues decreased significantly after hypobaric hypoxia treatment, corroborating previous results that hypobaric hypoxia may produce its protective effect by decreasing ROS production by limiting the levels of catalytic iron in the tissue. We next assessed the expression levels of several proteins involved in iron metabolism (transferrin receptor, L-ferritin, and ferroportin1 [FPN1]). The increased transferrin receptor and decreased L-ferritin levels after hypobaric hypoxia were indicative of a low-iron phenotype, while FPN1 levels remained unchanged. We also examined hepcidin, transmembrane serine proteases 6 (TMPRSS6), erythroferrone (ERFE), and erythropoietin (EPO) levels, all of which play a role in the regulation of systemic iron metabolism. The expression of hepcidin decreased significantly after hypobaric hypoxia treatment, whereas the expression of TMPRSS6 and ERFE and EPO increased sharply. Finally, we measured serum iron and total iron binding capacity in the serum, as well as red blood cell count, mean corpuscular volume, hematocrit, red blood cell distribution width SD, and red blood cell distribution width CV. As expected, all of these values increased after the hypobaric hypoxia treatment. Taken together, our results show that hypobaric hypoxia can stimulate erythropoiesis, which systemically draws iron away from nonhematopoietic tissue through decreased hepcidin levels.