Hepcidin level predicts hemoglobin concentration in individuals undergoing repeated phlebotomy

Haematologica. 2013 Aug;98(8):1324-30. doi: 10.3324/haematol.2012.070979. Epub 2013 Feb 26.


Dietary iron absorption is regulated by hepcidin, an iron regulatory protein produced by the liver. Hepcidin production is regulated by iron stores, erythropoiesis and inflammation, but its physiology when repeated blood loss occurs has not been characterized. Hepcidin was assayed in plasma samples obtained from 114 first-time/reactivated (no blood donations in preceding 2 years) female donors and 34 frequent (≥3 red blood cell donations in preceding 12 months) male donors as they were phlebotomized ≥4 times over 18-24 months. Hepcidin levels were compared to ferritin and hemoglobin levels using multivariable repeated measures regression models. Hepcidin, ferritin and hemoglobin levels declined with increasing frequency of donation in the first-time/reactivated females. Hepcidin and ferritin levels correlated well with each other (Spearman's correlation of 0.74), but on average hepcidin varied more between donations for a given donor relative to ferritin. In a multivariable repeated measures regression model the predicted inter-donation decline in hemoglobin varied as a function of hepcidin and ferritin; hemoglobin was 0.51 g/dL lower for subjects with low (>45.7 ng/mL) or decreasing hepcidin and low ferritin (>26 ng/mL), and was essentially zero for other subjects including those with high (>45.7 ng/mL) or increasing hepcidin and low ferritin (>26 ng/mL) levels (P<0.001). In conclusion, hepcidin levels change rapidly in response to dietary iron needed for erythropoiesis. The dynamic regulation of hepcidin in the presence of a low levels of ferritin suggests that plasma hepcidin concentration may provide clinically useful information about an individual's iron status (and hence capacity to tolerate repeated blood donations) beyond that of ferritin alone. Clinicaltrials.gov identifier: NCT00097006.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blood Donors*
  • Female
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism*
  • Hepcidins / blood*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phlebotomy / methods
  • Phlebotomy / trends*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Hemoglobins
  • Hepcidins

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00097006