Iron-regulatory proteins secure iron availability in cardiomyocytes to prevent heart failure

Eur Heart J. 2017 Feb 1;38(5):362-372. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehw333.


Aims: Iron deficiency (ID) is associated with adverse outcomes in heart failure (HF) but the underlying mechanisms are incompletely understood. Intracellular iron availability is secured by two mRNA-binding iron-regulatory proteins (IRPs), IRP1 and IRP2. We generated mice with a cardiomyocyte-targeted deletion of Irp1 and Irp2 to explore the functional implications of ID in the heart independent of systemic ID and anaemia.

Methods and results: Iron content in cardiomyocytes was reduced in Irp-targeted mice. The animals were not anaemic and did not show a phenotype under baseline conditions. Irp-targeted mice, however, were unable to increase left ventricular (LV) systolic function in response to an acute dobutamine challenge. After myocardial infarction, Irp-targeted mice developed more severe LV dysfunction with increased HF mortality. Mechanistically, the activity of the iron-sulphur cluster-containing complex I of the mitochondrial electron transport chain was reduced in left ventricles from Irp-targeted mice. As demonstrated by extracellular flux analysis in vitro, mitochondrial respiration was preserved at baseline but failed to increase in response to dobutamine in Irp-targeted cardiomyocytes. As shown by 31P-magnetic resonance spectroscopy in vivo, LV phosphocreatine/ATP ratio declined during dobutamine stress in Irp-targeted mice but remained stable in control mice. Intravenous injection of ferric carboxymaltose replenished cardiac iron stores, restored mitochondrial respiratory capacity and inotropic reserve, and attenuated adverse remodelling after myocardial infarction in Irp-targeted mice but not in control mice. As shown by electrophoretic mobility shift assays, IRP activity was significantly reduced in LV tissue samples from patients with advanced HF and reduced LV tissue iron content.

Conclusions: ID in cardiomyocytes impairs mitochondrial respiration and adaptation to acute and chronic increases in workload. Iron supplementation restores cardiac energy reserve and function in iron-deficient hearts.

Keywords: 31P-Magnetic resonance spectroscopy; Energy metabolism; Extracellular flux analysis; Heart failure; Iron deficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiotonic Agents / pharmacology
  • Dopamine / pharmacology
  • Ferric Compounds / pharmacology
  • Ferritins / metabolism
  • Heart Failure / metabolism
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Heart Failure / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Iron / deficiency*
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Iron-Regulatory Proteins / deficiency
  • Iron-Regulatory Proteins / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • Maltose / analogs & derivatives
  • Maltose / pharmacology
  • Mitochondria, Heart / physiology
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism*
  • Phenotype
  • RNA, Messenger / physiology
  • Ventricular Function, Left / physiology


  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Ferric Compounds
  • Iron-Regulatory Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • ferric carboxymaltose
  • Maltose
  • Ferritins
  • Iron
  • Dopamine