Genetic analysis of iron-deficiency effects on the mouse spleen

Mamm Genome. 2011 Oct;22(9-10):556-62. doi: 10.1007/s00335-011-9344-4. Epub 2011 Jul 6.


Iron homeostasis is crucial to many biological functions in nearly all organisms, with roles ranging from oxygen transport to immune function. Disruption of iron homeostasis may result in iron overload or iron deficiency. Iron deficiency may have severe consequences, including anemia or changes in immune or neurotransmitter systems. Here we report on the variability of phenotypic iron tissue loss and splenomegaly and the associated quantitative trait loci (QTLs), polymorphic areas in the mouse genome that may contain one or more genes that play a role in spleen iron concentration or spleen weight under each dietary treatment. Mice from 26 BXD/Ty recombinant inbred strains, including the parent C57BL/6 and DBA/2 strains, were randomly assigned to adequate iron or iron-deficient diets at weaning. After 120 days, splenomegaly was measured by spleen weight, and spleen iron was assessed using a modified spectrophotometry technique. QTL analyses and gene expression comparisons were then conducted using the WebQTL GeneNetwork. We observed wide, genetic-based variability in splenomegaly and spleen iron loss in BXD/Ty recombinant inbred strains fed an iron-deficient diet. Moreover, we identified several suggestive QTLs. Matching our QTLs with gene expression data from the spleen revealed candidate genes. Our work shows that individual differences in splenomegaly response to iron deficiency are influenced at least partly by genetic constitution. We propose mechanistic hypotheses by which splenomegaly may result from iron deficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Iron Metabolism Disorders / genetics*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Organ Size / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*
  • Sex Factors
  • Spleen / metabolism*


  • Iron