Hypoxia inhibits hepcidin expression in HuH7 hepatoma cells via decreased SMAD4 signaling

Timothy B. Chaston, Pavle Matak, Katayoun Pourvali, Surjit K. Srai, Andrew T. McKie, Paul A. Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Hepcidin negatively regulates systemic iron homeostasis in response to inflammation and elevated serum iron. Conversely, hepcidin expression is diminished in response to hypoxia, oxidative stress, and increased erythropoietic demand, though the molecular intermediates involved are incompletely understood. To address this, we have investigated hypoxic hepcidin regulation in HuH7 hepatoma cells either cultured alone or cocultured with activated THP-1 macrophages. HuH7 hepcidin mRNA expression was determined using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (Q-PCR). Hepcidin promoter activity was measured using luciferase reporter constructs containing a 0.9 kb fragment of the wild-type human hepcidin promoter, and constructs containing mutations in bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)/SMAD4, signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3), CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein (C/EBP), and E-box-responsive elements. Hepatic expression of bone morphogenetic proteins BMP2 and BMP6 and the BMP inhibitor noggin was determined using Q-PCR, and the protein expression of hemojuvelin (HJV), pSMAD 1/5/8, and SMAD4 was determined by western blotting. Following exposure to hypoxia or H2O2, hepcidin mRNA expression and promoter activity increased in HuH7 cells monocultures but were decreased in HuH7 cells cocultured with THP-1 macrophages. This repression was attenuated by mutation of the BMP/SMAD4-response element, suggesting that modulation of SMAD signaling mediated the response to hypoxia. No changes in hepatocyte BMP2, BMP6 or noggin mRNA, or protein expression of HJV or pSMAD 1/5/8 were detected. However, treatment with hypoxia caused a marked decrease in nuclear and cytosolic SMAD4 protein and SMAD4 mRNA expression in cocultured HuH7 cells. Together these data indicate that hypoxia represses hepcidin expression through inhibition of BMP/SMAD signaling.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberN/A
Pages (from-to)C888 - C895
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2011


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