Hypotransferrinemic (Hp) mice have a point mutation or small deletion in the transferrin (Tf) gene, resulting in defective splicing of precursor Tf mRNA. Hp animals produce 1% of normal Tf levels and require supplemental serum or purified Tf for survival. Because of the lack of endogenous brain Tf, we examined regional and cellular distributions of iron and iron regulatory proteins (Tf and ferritin) in selected brain regions of Hp mice. The regional distribution of iron, Tf, and ferritin in Hp brain was similar to normal except for the pattern of iron staining in hippocampus. The cellular distribution of iron, ferritin, and Tf was similar between Hp and normal animals. The predominant cell type, staining for Tf and iron was oligodendrocytes. Qualitative observations suggest that the number of cells staining for iron was similar between Hp and normal mice, whereas the number of Hp Tf‐positive cells was reduced. Ferritin immunostaining was similar in both cases. However, ferritin‐positive cells were preominantly astrocytes, an observation unique to mice among species studied previously. Western blot analysis revealed that Tf present in HP brain was of exogenous origin (from supplemental injections). Presumably, Tf transports the iron found in Hp oligodendrocytes. These data demonstrate that, despite reduced endogenous Hp brain Tf, iron and plasma Tf migrate or are transported to the appropriate cells (oligodendrocytes), bringing into question the role of endogenous brain Tf in extracellular iron transport.
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