Pentosan polysulfate to control hepcidin expression in vitro and in vivo

Biochem Pharmacol. 2020 May:175:113867. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2020.113867. Epub 2020 Feb 20.


Hepcidin peptide is crucial in the regulation of systemic iron availability controlling its uptake from the diet and its release from the body storage tissues. Hepcidin dysregulation causes different human disorders ranging from iron overload (e.g. hemochromatosis) to iron deficiency (e.g. anemia). Hepcidin excess is common in the Anemia of Chronic Diseases or Anemia of Inflammation and in the genetic form of anemia named IRIDA; the pharmacological downregulation of hepcidin in these disorders could improve the anemia. Commercial heparins were shown to be strong inhibitors of hepcidin expression, by interfering with BMP6/SMAD pathway. The non-anti-coagulant heparins, modified to abolish the anti-thrombin binding site, were equally potent and could be used to improve iron status. To perform its anti-hepcidin activity heparin needs 2O- and 6O-sulfation and an average molecular weight (MW) up to 4000-8000 Dalton, depending on the sulfation level. The pentosane polysulfate (PPS), which shares with heparin a high degree of sulfation, is a compound with low anti-coagulant activity that is already in use for pharmaceutical treatment. In the present work we analyzed the anti-hepcidin activity of PPS in vitro and in vivo. We found that it acts as a strong inhibitor of hepcidin expression in HepG2 cells with an effect already visible after 2-3 h of treatment. It also suppressed hepcidin in mice in a dose dependent manner after 3 h and with a significant redistribution of systemic iron without evident side effects. PPS is also able to abolish the LPS dependent hepcidin upregulation similarly to that showed for heparin derivatives. These results suggest PPS as an interesting compound to control hepcidin in vivo.

Keywords: Elmiron; Fibrase; Heparin-like compound; Hepcidin; Iron metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Gene Expression / immunology
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Hepcidins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Hepcidins / blood
  • Hepcidins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / immunology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Pentosan Sulfuric Polyester / administration & dosage
  • Pentosan Sulfuric Polyester / pharmacology*


  • Hepcidins
  • Pentosan Sulfuric Polyester