Compound heterozygotes for hemochromatosis gene mutations: may they help to understand the pathophysiology of the disease?

Blood Cells Mol Dis. 1997 Aug;23(2):269-76. doi: 10.1006/bcmd.1997.0143.


Two mutations have been described on the gene considered to be responsible for genetic hemochromatosis, the HLA-H or HFE gene. The C282Y mutation is a disease-causing mutation in most cases of genetic hemochromatosis, but involvment of the H63D substitution in the pathogenesis of the disease is unclear. Compound heterozygotes for both substitutions could help to determine whether or not the second mutation is a worsening factor when associate in trans with the C282Y mutant. We found twenty nine compound heterozygotes during DNA analysis of patients referred to our laboratory for the screening of those mutations. Clinical and biological data were obtainable for 23 of them. Compound heterozygotes could be divided into two groups: subjects with or without iron overload. Five (22%) individuals had normal ferritin levels, whereas 18 had elevated ferritin concentrations (78%). Among those 18 patients, 7 (30% of the total) had clinical and biological criteria of genetic hemochromatosis. Eleven had iron overload without all the criteria of genetic hemochromatosis. Such a high proportion of genetic hemochromatosis is not found in heterozygotes for the C282Y mutation alone neither in our series nor in the literature. Compound heterozygotes for the C282Y and the H63D mutations may have a higher risk of iron overload or genetic hemochromatosis than single heterozygotes for the C282Y mutation. We propose a schematic theoretical representation that could explain this fact at the protein level. Further fundamental studies on the protein, and clinical follow up of compound heterozygotes could help to ascertain this hypothesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Female
  • Genetic Carrier Screening*
  • Genotype
  • HLA Antigens / genetics*
  • Hemochromatosis / genetics*
  • Hemochromatosis / physiopathology*
  • Hemochromatosis Protein
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics*
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins*
  • Middle Aged
  • Point Mutation*


  • HFE protein, human
  • HLA Antigens
  • Hemochromatosis Protein
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Membrane Proteins