Effects of TNF-α and IL-1β on iron metabolism by A549 cells and influence on cytotoxicity

Igor M. Smirnov, Kirstin Bailey, Carol H. Flowers, Ned W. Garrigues, Lewis J. Wesselius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Extracellular iron, which is predominantly bound by transferrin, is present in low concentrations within alveolar structures, and concentrations are increased in various pulmonary disorders. Iron accumulation by cells can promote oxidative injury. However, the synthesis of ferritin stimulated by metal exposure for intracellular iron storage is normally protective. The cytokines tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and interleukin (IL)-1β may alter iron metabolism by alveolar cells. In this study, we assessed the effects of TNF-α and IL-1β on iron metabolism with a cell line with properties of type 2 alveolar epithelial cells (A549) exposed to non-transferrin-bound (NTBI; FeSO4) or transferrin-bound (TBI) iron. In addition, we assessed the cytotoxicity of these exposures by measuring the cell accumulation of malondialdehyde (MDA), a product of lipid peroxidation, and cell death (MTT assay and lactate dehydrogenase release). A549 cells treated with NTBI or TBI in concentrations up to 40 μM accumulated iron and synthesized predominantly L-type ferritin without accumulation of MDA or cell death. Treatment of A549 cells with TNF-α (20 ng) or IL-1β (20 ng) decreased cell transferrin- receptor expression and induced synthesis of H-type ferritin. TNF-α and IL- 1β decreased the uptake of TBI; however, the uptake of NTBI was increased. Both cytokines enhanced total ferritin synthesis (H plus L types) in response to iron treatments due to enhanced synthesis of H-type ferritin. Coexposure to TNF-α and NTBI, but not to TBI, induced MDA accumulation and greater cytotoxicity (MTT and lactate dehydrogenase release) than TNF-α alone. These findings indicate that TNF-α and IL-1β modulate iron uptake by A549 cells, with differing effects on TBI and NTBI, as well as on H-ferritin synthesis. Enhanced iron uptake induced by TNF-α and NTBI was also associated with increased cytotoxicity to A549 cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L257-L263
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number2 21-2
StatePublished - Aug 1999


  • Alveolar epithelium
  • Ferritin
  • Interleukin-1β
  • Iron
  • Tumor necrosis factor-α

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of TNF-α and IL-1β on iron metabolism by A549 cells and influence on cytotoxicity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this