Ferritins are protein nanocages that accumulate inside their cavity thousands of oxidized iron atoms bound to oxygen and phosphates. Both characteristic types of eukaryotic ferritin subunits are present in secreted ferritins from insects, but here dimers between Ferritin 1 Heavy Chain Homolog (Fer1HCH) and Ferritin 2 Light Chain Homolog (Fer2LCH) are further stabilized by disulfide-bridge in the 24-subunit complex. We addressed ferritin assembly and iron loading in vivo
using novel transgenic strains of Drosophila melanogaster
. We concentrated on the intestine, where the ferritin induction process can be controlled experimentally by dietary iron manipulation. We showed that the expression pattern of Fer2LCH-Gal4
lines recapitulated iron-dependent endogenous expression of the ferritin subunits and used these lines to drive expression from UAS-mCherry-Fer2LCH
transgenes. We found that the Gal4-mediated induction of mCherry-Fer2LCH subunits was too slow to effectively introduce them into newly formed ferritin complexes. Endogenous Fer2LCH and Fer1HCH assembled and stored excess dietary iron, instead. In contrast, when flies were genetically manipulated to co-express Fer2LCH and mCherry-Fer2LCH simultaneously, both subunits were incorporated with Fer1HCH in iron-loaded ferritin complexes. Our study provides fresh evidence that, in insects, ferritin assembly and iron loading in vivo
are tightly regulated.
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