Glia maturation factor-γ regulates murine macrophage iron metabolism and M2 polarization through mitochondrial ROS

Blood Adv. 2019 Apr 23;3(8):1211-1225. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2018026070.


In macrophages, cellular iron metabolism status is tightly integrated with macrophage phenotype and associated with mitochondrial function. However, how molecular events regulate mitochondrial activity to integrate regulation of iron metabolism and macrophage phenotype remains unclear. Here, we explored the important role of the actin-regulatory protein glia maturation factor-γ (GMFG) in the regulation of cellular iron metabolism and macrophage phenotype. We found that GMFG was downregulated in murine macrophages by exposure to iron and hydrogen peroxide. GMFG knockdown altered the expression of iron metabolism proteins and increased iron levels in murine macrophages and concomitantly promoted their polarization toward an anti-inflammatory M2 phenotype. GMFG-knockdown macrophages exhibited moderately increased levels of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mtROS), which were accompanied by decreased expression of some mitochondrial respiration chain components, including the iron-sulfur cluster assembly scaffold protein ISCU as well as the antioxidant enzymes SOD1 and SOD2. Importantly, treatment of GMFG-knockdown macrophages with the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine reversed the altered expression of iron metabolism proteins and significantly inhibited the enhanced gene expression of M2 macrophage markers, suggesting that mtROS is mechanistically linked to cellular iron metabolism and macrophage phenotype. Finally, GMFG interacted with the mitochondrial membrane ATPase ATAD3A, suggesting that GMFG knockdown-induced mtROS production might be attributed to alteration of mitochondrial function in macrophages. Our findings suggest that GMFG is an important regulator in cellular iron metabolism and macrophage phenotype and could be a novel therapeutic target for modulating macrophage function in immune and metabolic disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • ATPases Associated with Diverse Cellular Activities / genetics
  • ATPases Associated with Diverse Cellular Activities / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Glia Maturation Factor / genetics
  • Glia Maturation Factor / metabolism*
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism
  • RAW 264.7 Cells
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Superoxide Dismutase / genetics
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1 / genetics
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1 / metabolism


  • Atad3a protein, mouse
  • Glia Maturation Factor
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • glia maturation factor gamma
  • Iron
  • Sod1 protein, mouse
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Superoxide Dismutase-1
  • superoxide dismutase 2
  • ATPases Associated with Diverse Cellular Activities