Transferrin receptor-1 (TfR1) is a cell membrane-associated glycoprotein responsible for incorporation of the iron bound to transferrin through an endocytotic process from the circulating blood. Iron is believed to play a dual role as an active center of the electron transfer system in mitochondria and as an endogenous cytotoxin through promoted generation of reactive oxygen species in different eukaryotic cells. In this study, we evaluated expression profiles of different genes related to iron mobilization across plasma membranes in neuronal cells. Marked mRNA expression was seen for various iron-related genes such as TfR1 in cultured mouse neocortical neurons, while TfR1 mRNA levels were more than doubled during culture from 3 to 6 days. In mouse embryonal carcinoma P19 cells endowed to differentiate into neuronal and astroglial lineages, a transient increase was seen in both mRNA and corresponding protein for TfR1 in association with neuronal marker expression during culture with all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA). In neuronal Neuro2A cells cultured with ATRA, moreover, neurite was elongated together with increased expression of both mRNA and protein for TfR1. Overexpression of TfR1 significantly decreased the length of neurite elongated, however, while significant promotion was invariably seen in the neurite elongation in Neuro2A cells transfected with TfR1 siRNA as well as in Neuro2A cells cultured with an iron chelator. These results suggest that TfR1 would be highly expressed by neurons rather than astroglia to play a negative role in the neurite outgrowth after the incorporation of circulating transferrin in the brain.
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