Fetal iron status regulates maternal iron metabolism during pregnancy in the rat

Lorraine Gambling, Alicja Czopek, Henriette S Andersen, Grietje Holtrop, S Kaila S Srai, Zbigniew Krejpcio, Harry J McArdle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Iron metabolism during pregnancy is biased toward maintaining the fetal supply, even at the cost of anemia in the mother. The mechanisms regulating this are not well understood. Here, we examine iron deficiency and supplementation on the hierarchy of iron supply and the gene expression of proteins that regulate iron metabolism in the rat. Dams were fed iron-deficient diets for 4 wk, mated, and either continued on the deficient diet or an iron-supplemented diet during either the first half or the second half of their pregnancy. A control group was maintained on normal iron throughout. They were killed at 0.5, 12.5, or 21.5 days of gestation, and tissues and blood samples were collected. Deficiency and supplementation had differential effects on maternal and fetal hematocrit and liver iron levels. From early in pregnancy, a hierarchy of iron supply is established benefiting the fetus to the detriment of the mother. Transferrin receptor, transferrin receptor 2, and hepcidin mRNA expression were regulated by both iron deficiency and supplementation. Expression patterns showed both organ and supplementation protocol dependence. Further analysis indicated that iron levels in the fetal, and not maternal, liver regulate the expression of liver transferrin receptor and hepcidin expression in the mother.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R1063-R1070
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology-Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2009


  • placenta
  • deficiency
  • supplementation
  • binding
  • hepcidin
  • absorption
  • expression
  • growth
  • placenta
  • transferrin
  • conceptus


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