Iron availability for erythropoiesis and its dysregulation in β-thalassemia are incompletely understood. We previously demonstrated that exogenous apotransferrin leads to more effective erythropoiesis, decreasing erythroferrone (ERFE) and derepressing hepcidin in β-thalassemic mice. Transferrin-bound iron binding to transferrin receptor 1 (TfR1) is essential for cellular iron delivery during erythropoiesis. We hypothesize that apotransferrin's effect is mediated via decreased TfR1 expression and evaluate TfR1 expression in β-thalassemic mice in vivo and in vitro with and without added apotransferrin. Our findings demonstrate that β-thalassemic erythroid precursors overexpress TfR1, an effect that can be reversed by the administration of exogenous apotransferrin. In vitro experiments demonstrate that apotransferrin inhibits TfR1 expression independent of erythropoietin- and iron-related signaling, decreases TfR1 partitioning to reticulocytes during enucleation, and enhances enucleation of defective β-thalassemic erythroid precursors. These findings strongly suggest that overexpressed TfR1 may play a regulatory role contributing to iron overload and anemia in β-thalassemic mice. To evaluate further, we crossed TfR1+/- mice, themselves exhibiting iron-restricted erythropoiesis with increased hepcidin, with β-thalassemic mice. Resultant double-heterozygote mice demonstrate long-term improvement in ineffective erythropoiesis, hepcidin derepression, and increased erythroid enucleation in relation to β-thalassemic mice. Our data demonstrate for the first time that TfR1+/- haploinsufficiency reverses iron overload specifically in β-thalassemic erythroid precursors. Taken together, decreasing TfR1 expression during β-thalassemic erythropoiesis, either directly via induced haploinsufficiency or via exogenous apotransferrin, decreases ineffective erythropoiesis and provides an endogenous mechanism to upregulate hepcidin, leading to sustained iron-restricted erythropoiesis and preventing systemic iron overload in β-thalassemic mice.
© 2017 by The American Society of Hematology.