In adults with sickle cell disease (SCD), markers of iron burden are associated with excessive production of the angiogenic protein placenta growth factor (PlGF) and high estimated pulmonary artery pressure. Enforced PlGF expression in mice stimulates production of the potent vasoconstrictor endothelin-1, producing pulmonary hypertension. We now demonstrate heme-bound iron (hemin) induces PlGF mRNA >200-fold in a dose- and time-dependent fashion. In murine and human erythroid cells, expression of erythroid Krüppel-like factor (EKLF) precedes PlGF, and its enforced expression in human erythroid progenitor cells induces PlGFmRNA. Hemin-induced expression of PlGF is abolished in EKLF-deficient murine erythroid cells but rescued by conditional expression of EKLF. Chromatin immunoprecipitation reveals that EKLF binds to the PlGF promoter region. SCD patients show higher level expression of both EKLF and PlGF mRNA in circulating blood cells, and markers of iron over load are associated with high PlGF and early mortality. Finally, PlGF association with iron burden generalizes to other human diseases of iron overload. Our results demonstrate a specific mechanistic pathway induced by excess iron that is linked in humans with SCD and in mice to markers of vasculopathy and pulmonary hypertension.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology