Translocation of iron from lysosomes into mitochondria is a key event during oxidative stress-induced hepatocellular injury

Akira Uchiyama, Jae Sung Kim, Kazuyoshi Kon, Hartmut Jaeschke, Kenichi Ikejima, Sumio Watanabe, John J. Lemasters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


Iron overload exacerbates various liver diseases. In hepatocytes, a portion of non-heme iron is sequestered in lysosomes and endosomes. The precise mechanisms by which lysosomal iron participates in hepatocellular injury remain uncertain. Here, our aim was to determine the role of intracellular movement of chelatable iron in oxidative stress-induced killing to cultured hepatocytes from C3Heb mice and Sprague-Dawley rats. Mitochondrial polarization and chelatable iron were visualized by confocal microscopy of tetramethylrhodamine methylester (TMRM) and quenching of calcein, respectively. Cell viability and hydroperoxide formation (a measure of lipid peroxidation) were measured fluorometrically using propidium iodide and chloromethyl dihy- drodichlorofluorescein, respectively. After collapse of lysosomal/ endosomal acidic pH gradients with bafilomycin (50 nM), an inhibitor of the vacuolar proton-pumping adenosine triphosphatase, cytosolic calcein fluorescence became quenched. Deferoxamine mesylate and starch-deferoxamine (1 mM) prevented bafilomycin-induced calcein quenching, indicating that bafilomycin induced release of chelatable iron from lysosomes/endosomes. Bafilomycin also quenched calcein fluorescence in mitochondria, which was blocked by 20 μM Ru360, an inhibitor of the mitochondrial calcium uniporter, consistent with mitochondrial iron uptake by the uniporter. Bafilomycin alone was not sufficient to induce mitochondrial depolarization and cell killing, but in the presence of low-dose tert-butylhydroperoxide (25 μM), bafilomycin enhanced hydroperoxide generation, leading to mitochondrial depolarization and subsequent cell death. Conclusion: Taken together, the results are consistent with the conclusion that bafilomycin induces release of chelatable iron from lysosomes/endosomes, which is taken up by mitochondria. Oxidative stress and chelatable iron thus act as two "hits" synergistically promoting toxic radical formation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and cell death. This pathway of intracellular iron translocation is a potential therapeutic target against oxidative stress-mediated hepatotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1644-1654
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2008


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