The Relationship of Serum Hemojuvelin and Hepcidin Levels with Iron Overload in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Background & Aims: Mild iron overload is frequently reported in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Hepcidin is the master iron-regulatory peptide and hemojuvelin (HJV) is the key regulator of iron-dependent secretion of hepcidin. The aims of this study were to evaluate serum HJV and hepcidin levels in patients with biopsy-proven NAFLD with and without hepatic iron overload, and to identify potential associations of HJV and hepcidin with the clinical characteristics of the patients enrolled.
Methods: Serum levels of HJV and hepcidin were measured in 66 NAFLD patients with (n=12) and without (n=54) iron overload, and controls (n=35) by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Hemojuvelin and hepcidin levels were assessed in relation to clinical characteristics and liver histologic evaluation of the participants.
Results: Significantly lower serum HJV (281.1 [239.2-353.6] vs. 584.8 [440.3-661] ng/ml, p<0.001) and similar serum hepcidin levels (60.5±31.1 vs. 55.8±11.9 ng/ml, p=0.285) were found in NAFLD patients when compared to controls. İron-overloaded NAFLD patients had significantly lower HJV (249.9 [187.6-296.3] vs. 292.9 [243-435] ng/ml, p=0.032) and significantly higher hepcidin (78.4±35.5 vs. 56.5±28.9ng/ml, p=0.027) levels than NAFLD patients without iron overload. Fibrosis stage was significantly higher in iron overloaded NAFLD group (p<0.001). Ferritin levels correlated significantly both with HOMA-IR (r=0.368, p=0.002) and fibrosis stage (r=0.571, p<0.001).
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that HJV levels are low in NAFLD and even lower in iron overloaded NAFLD, while hepcidin levels are higher in NAFLD with iron overload. The gradually decreased HJV and increased hepcidin concentrations in our patients most likely reflect the physiological response to iron accumulation in the liver.