Multiple sclerosis is a chronic demyelinating disease of the central nervous system characterised by inflammatory and degenerative changes. It is considered that disease arises from the influence of environmental factors on genetically susceptible individuals. Recent researches, using magnetic resonance imaging, connected iron deposits in different brain regions with demyelinating process in multiple sclerosis patients. Although iron is an essential trace element important for many biological functions it could be harmful because iron excess can induce the production of reactive oxygen species, development of oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation which leads to demyelination. In experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis model, the most common experimental animal model for multiple sclerosis, we recently found that chronic iron overload influences the clinical course of disease in Dark Agouti rats. In female rats iron overload accelerated the onset of disease, while in male rats it accelerated the progression of disease and increased mortality rate. We hypothesize that those differences arise on molecular level in different expression of stress response proteins hepcidin and metallothioneins in male and female iron overloaded rats. They are both upregulated by metal ions in both sexes. Hepcidin is additionally upregulated by estrogen in female rats and therefore causes higher degradation of iron exporter ferroportin and sequestration of iron in the cells, lowering the possibility for the development of oxidative stress. Antioxidative effect of metallothioneins could be increased in female rats because of their ability to reversibly exchange metal ions with the estrogen receptor. In case of iron excess metallothioneins release zinc, which is normally bound to them. Zinc binds to estrogen receptor and leaves metallothioneins binding domains free for iron, causing at least provisional cytoprotective effect. To test this hypothesis, we propose to determine and compare serum levels of hepcidin and estrogen using ELISA essay as well as expression and distribution of acute stress response proteins hepcidin and metallothioneins, iron and estrogen receptor in the brain and spinal cord tissue using immunohistochemistry in control and chronic iron overloaded male and female rats in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis model. It would be also possible to perform the same immunohistochemistry in the brain tissue of multiple sclerosis patients post mortem. The results of experiments could contribute to better understanding of cytoprotective mechanisms in chronic iron overload that could have possible therapeutic applications in iron disturbances. In order to elucidate whether common measure of systemic iron status, like ferritin, haemoglobin concentration and transferrin saturation levels, may be used to distinguish physiologic from potentially harmful iron levels in local disease, for example multiple sclerosis and Still’s disease, well-designed clinical trials would be of great interest.
Medical Hypotheses – Elsevier
Published: Sep 1, 2017
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