Iron is an essential nutrient for mammals as well as for pathogens. Inflammation-driven changes in systemic and cellular iron homeostasis are central for host-mediated antimicrobial strategies. Here, we studied the role of the iron storage protein ferritin H (FTH) for the control of infections with the intracellular pathogen Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium by macrophages. Mice lacking FTH in the myeloid lineage (LysM-Cre+/+Fthfl/fl mice) displayed impaired iron storage capacities in the tissue leukocyte compartment, increased levels of labile iron in macrophages, and an accelerated macrophage-mediated iron turnover. While under steady-state conditions, LysM-Cre+/+Fth+/+ and LysM-Cre+/+Fthfl/fl animals showed comparable susceptibility to Salmonella infection, i.v. iron supplementation drastically shortened survival of LysM-Cre+/+Fthfl/fl mice. Mechanistically, these animals displayed increased bacterial burden, which contributed to uncontrolled triggering of NF-κB and inflammasome signaling and development of cytokine storm and death. Importantly, pharmacologic inhibition of the inflammasome and IL-1β pathways reduced cytokine levels and mortality and partly restored infection control in iron-treated ferritin-deficient mice. These findings uncover incompletely characterized roles of ferritin and cellular iron turnover in myeloid cells in controlling bacterial spread and for modulating NF-κB and inflammasome-mediated cytokine activation, which may be of vital importance in iron-overloaded individuals suffering from severe infections and sepsis.


David Haschka, Piotr Tymoszuk, Verena Petzer, Richard Hilbe, Simon Heeke, Stefanie Dichtl, Sergej Skvortsov, Egon Demetz, Sylvia Berger, Markus Seifert, Anna-Maria Mitterstiller, Patrizia Moser, Dirk Bumann, Manfred Nairz, Igor Theurl, Guenter Weiss


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