Recurrent mutations in the iron regulatory element of L-ferritin in hereditary hyperferritinemia-cataract syndrome

Haematologica. 1999 Jun;84(6):489-92.


Background and objective: Hereditary hyperferritinemia-cataract syndrome (HHCS) is an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by bilateral cataracts and increased serum and tissue L-ferritin, in the absence of iron overload. The deregulation of ferritin production is caused by heterogeneous mutations in the iron regulatory element (IRE) of L-ferritin that interfere with the binding of iron regulatory proteins.

Design and methods: We have identified several patients from three unrelated Italian families with HHCS. Iron parameters were assessed by standard methods. The IRE element of L-ferritin was amplified by PCR using appropriate primers and directly sequenced.

Results: Ferritin levels ranged from 918 microg/L to 2490 microg/L in the patients studied. In one family bilateral cataracts were diagnosed early in life, whereas in the others cataracts were diagnosed around 40-50 years. The female proband of family 3 presented with a severe iron deficiency anemia, which was unrecognized because of the increased ferritin values. Sequencing of the IRE element of L-ferritin in the probands of the three families identified three different nucleotide substitutions (+32 GAE A, +40 AAE G and +39 CT) in the IRE of L-ferritin. These mutations have already been reported in unrelated subjects of different ethnic origins.

Interpretation and conclusions: Our findings are consistent with recurrent mutations associated with HHCS and underline the importance of this syndrome in the differential diagnosis of unexplained hyperferritinemia. In addition, the findings highlight the role played by transferrin saturation in the diagnosis of iron deficiency in these patients.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cataract / blood*
  • Cataract / genetics*
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood*
  • Ferritins / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Pedigree
  • Point Mutation
  • Response Elements*
  • Syndrome


  • Ferritins
  • Iron