Backgrounds & aims: Hepcidin is an acute-phase response peptide. We have investigated the possible involvement of hepcidin in massive obesity, a state of chronic low-grade inflammation. Three groups of severely obese patients with or without diabetes or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis were investigated.
Methods: Hepcidin expression was studied in liver and adipose tissue of these patients. Hepcidin regulation was investigated in vitro by adipose tissue explant stimulation studies.
Results: Hepcidin was expressed not only in the liver but also at the messenger RNA (mRNA) and the protein levels in adipose tissue. Moreover, mRNA expression was increased in adipose tissue of obese patients. The presence of diabetes or NASH did not modify the hepcidin expression levels in liver and adipose tissue. In adipose tissue, mRNA expression correlated with indexes of inflammation, interleukin-6, and C-reactive protein. Interleukin-6 also promoted in vitro hepcidin expression. A low transferrin saturation ratio was observed in 68% of the obese patients; moreover, 24% of these patients presented with anemia. The observed changes in iron status could be due to the role of hepcidin as a negative regulator of intestinal iron absorption and macrophage iron efflux. Interestingly, a feedback control mechanism on hepcidin expression related to low transferrin saturation occurred in the liver but not in the adipose tissue.
Conclusions: Hepcidin is a proinflammatory adipokine and may play an important role in hypoferremia of inflammation in obese condition.