Background: There is a significant clinical need for effective treatment of iron deficiency. A number of compounds that can be administered intravenously have been developed. This study examines how the compounds are handled by macrophages and their relative potential to provoke oxidative stress. Methods: Human kidney (HK-2) cells, rat peritoneal macrophages and renal cortical homogenates were exposed to pharmaceutical iron preparations. Analyses were performed for indices of oxidative stress and cell integrity. In addition, in macrophages, iron uptake and release and cytokine secretion was monitored. Results: HK-2 cell viability was decreased by iron isomaltoside and ferumoxytol and all compounds induced lipid peroxidation. In the renal cortical homogenates, lipid peroxidation occurred at lowest concentrations with ferric carboxymaltose, iron dextran, iron sucrose and sodium ferric gluconate. In the macrophages, iron sucrose caused loss of cell viability. Iron uptake was highest for ferumoxytol and iron isomaltoside and lowest for iron sucrose and sodium ferric gluconate. Iron was released as secretion of ferritin or as ferrous iron via ferroportin. The latter was blocked by hepcidin. Exposure to ferric carboxymaltose and iron dextran resulted in release of tumor necrosis factor α. Conclusions: Exposure to iron compounds increased cell stress but was tissue and dose dependent. There was a clear difference in the handling of iron from the different compounds by macrophages that suggests in vivo responses may differ.
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