Parenterial iron sucrose-induced renal preconditioning: differential ferritin heavy and light chain expression in plasma, urine, and internal organs

Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2019 Dec 1;317(6):F1563-F1571. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00307.2019. Epub 2019 Oct 14.


Experimental data suggest that iron sucrose (FeS) injection, used either alone or in combination with other prooxidants, can induce "renal preconditioning," in part by upregulating cytoprotective ferritin levels. However, the rapidity, degree, composition (heavy vs. light chain), and renal ferritin changes after FeS administration in humans remain to be defined. To address these issues, healthy human volunteers (n = 9) and patients with stage 3-4 chronic kidney disease(n = 9) were injected once with FeS (120, 240, or 360 mg). Plasma ferritin was measured from 0 to 8 days postinjection as an overall index of ferritin generation. Urinary ferritin served as a "biomarker" of renal ferritin production. FeS induced rapid (≤2 h), dose-dependent, plasma ferritin increases in all study participants, peaking at approximately three to five times baseline within 24-48 h. Significant urinary ferritin increases (~3 times), without dose-dependent increases in albuminuria, neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin, or N-acetyl-β-d-glucosaminidase excretion, were observed. Western blot analysis with ferritin heavy chain (Fhc)- and light chain (Flc)-specific antibodies demonstrated that FeS raised plasma Flc but not Fhc levels. Conversely, FeS increased both Fhc and Flc in urine. To assess sites of FeS-induced ferritin generation, organs from FeS-treated mice were probed for Fhc, Flc, and their mRNAs. FeS predominantly raised hepatic Flc. Conversely, marked Fhc and Flc elevations developed in the kidney and spleen. No cardiopulmonary ferritin increases occurred. Ferritin mRNAs remained unchanged throughout, implying posttranscriptional ferritin production. We conclude that FeS induces rapid, dramatic, and differential Fhc and Flc upregulation in organs. Renal Fhc and Flc increases, in the absence of nephrotoxicity, suggest potential FeS utility as a clinical renal "preconditioning" agent.

Keywords: acute kidney injury; ferritin heavy chain; ferritin light chain; preconditioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / prevention & control
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Female
  • Ferric Oxide, Saccharated / administration & dosage
  • Ferric Oxide, Saccharated / adverse effects
  • Ferric Oxide, Saccharated / pharmacology*
  • Ferritins / biosynthesis*
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Ferritins / urine
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Parenteral
  • Ischemic Preconditioning*
  • Kidney / drug effects*
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kidney Diseases / chemically induced
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / metabolism
  • Spleen / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Ferritins
  • Ferric Oxide, Saccharated