In vivo tumor growth is inhibited by cytosolic iron deprivation caused by the expression of mitochondrial ferritin

Guangjun Nie, Guohua Chen, Alex D. Sheftel, Kostas Pantopoulos, Prem Ponka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Mitochondrial ferritin (MtFt) is a mitochondrial iron-storage protein whose function and regulation is largely unknown. Our previous results have shown that MtFt overexpression markedly affects intracellular iron homeostasis in mammalian cells. Using tumor xenografts, we examined the effects of MtFt overexpression on tumor iron metabolism and growth. The expression of MtFt dramatically reduced implanted tumor growth in nude mice. Mitochondrial iron deposition in MtFt-expressing tumors was directly observed by transmission electron microscopy. A cytosolic iron starvation phenotype in MtFt-expressing tumors was revealed by increased RNA-binding activity of iron regulatory proteins, and concomitantly both an increase in transferrin receptor levels and a decrease in cytosolic ferritin. MtFt overexpression also led to decreases in total cellular heme content and heme oxygenase-1 levels. In addition, elevated MtFt in tumors was also associated with a decrease in total aconitase activity and lower frataxin protein level. In conclusion, our study shows that high MtFt levels can significantly affect tumor iron homeostasis by shunting iron into mitochondria; iron scarcity resulted in partially deficient heme and iron-sulfur cluster synthesis. It is likely that deprivation of iron in the cytosol is the cause for the significant inhibition of xenograft tumor growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2428-2434
Number of pages7
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Hematology
  • Cell Biology


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