Transferrin receptor 2 deficiency promotes macrophage polarization and inflammatory arthritis

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OBJECTIVE: Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory joint disease in which synovial iron deposition has been described. Transferrin receptor 2 (Tfr2) represents a critical regulator of systemic iron levels. Loss of Tfr2 function in humans and mice results in iron overload. As iron contributes to inflammatory processes, we investigated whether Tfr2-deletion affects the pathogenesis of inflammatory arthritis in an iron-dependent manner.

METHODS: Using a global and conditional genetic disruption of Tfr2, we assessed the relevance of Tfr2 in K/BxN serum-transfer arthritis (STA) and macrophage polarization.

RESULTS: Male Tfr2 -/- mice subjected to STA developed pronounced joint swelling, and bone erosion as compared to Tfr2 +/+ littermate-controls (P < 0.01). Furthermore, an increase of neutrophils and macrophages/monocytes was observed in the inflammatory infiltrate within the paws of Tfr2 -/- mice. To elucidate whether Tfr2 in myeloid cells has a direct role in the pathogenesis of arthritis or whether the effects were mediated via the systemic iron overload, we induced STA in Tfr2 fl/fl-LysMCre + mice, which showed normal iron-loading. Cre + female mice displayed increased disease development compared to Cre-controls. As macrophages regulate iron availability and innate immunity, we hypothesized that Tfr2-deficiency would polarize macrophages toward a pro-inflammatory state (M1) that contributes to arthritis progression. In response to IFN-γ stimulation, Tfr2 -/- macrophages showed increased expression of M1-like cytokines, IFN-γ-target genes, nitric-oxide production, and prolonged STAT1 activation compared to Tfr2 +/+ macrophages (P < 0.01), while pre-treatment with ruxolitinib abolished Tfr2-driven M1-like polarization.

CONCLUSION: Taken together, these findings suggest a protective role of Tfr2 in macrophages on the progression of arthritis via suppression of M1-like polarization.


Original languageEnglish
Article number102616
JournalRedox biology
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

External IDs

PubMed 36746004


Research priority areas of TU Dresden

DFG Classification of Subject Areas according to Review Boards

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Sustainable Development Goals


  • Humans, Mice, Male, Female, Animals, Mice, Knockout, Iron/metabolism, Iron Overload/pathology, Macrophages/metabolism, Arthritis/metabolism, Receptors, Transferrin/genetics