Zinc induces iron uptake and DMT1 expression in Caco-2 cells via a PI3K/IRP2 dependent mechanism

Palsa Kondaiah, Mohamad F Aslam, Purna Chandra Mashurabad, Paul A. Sharp, Raghu Pullakhandam

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The absorption of dietary iron is influenced by numerous dietary and physiological factors. We have previously demonstrated that zinc treatment of intestinal cells increases iron absorption via induction of the apical membrane iron transporter divalent metal iron transporter-1 (DMT1). To better understand the mechanisms of zinc-induced iron absorption we have studied the effect of zinc on iron uptake, iron transporter and iron regulatory protein (IRP 1 and 2) expression and the impact of thePI3K pathway in differentiated Caco-2 cells, an intestinal cell culture model. We found that zinc induces DMT1 protein and mRNA expression. Zinc-induced DMT1 expression and iron absorption were inhibited by siRNA silencing of DMT1. Further, zinc treatment led to increased abundance of IRP2 protein in cell lysates and in polysomal fractions, implying its binding to target mRNAs. Zinc treatment induced Akt phosphorylation, indicating the activation of the PI3K pathway. LY294002, a specific inhibitor of PI3K inhibited zinc-induced Akt phosphorylation, iron uptake, DMT1 and IRP2 expression. Further, LY294002 also decreased the basal level of DMT1 mRNA but not protein expression. siRNA silencing of IRP2 led to down regulation of both basal and zinc-induced DMT1 protein expression, implying possible involvement of post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms. In agreement with these findings zinc treatment stabilized DMT1 mRNA levels in actinomycin-D treated cells. Based on these findings, we conclude that zinc-induced iron absorption involves elevation of DMT1 expression via stabilization of its mRNA, viaaPI3K/IRP2-dependent mechanism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1573-1583
Number of pages11
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number11
Early online date11 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2019


  • gastrointestinal physiology
  • iron metabolism
  • nutrition
  • phosphoinositide 3-kinase
  • zinc


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