INTRODUCTION: Neurons require iron to support their metabolism, growth, and differentiation, but are also susceptible to iron-induced oxidative stress and cytotoxicity. Ferritin, a cytosolic iron storage unit, mediates cellular adaptation to fluctuations in iron delivery. NCOA4 has been characterized as a selective autophagic cargo receptor facilitating the mobilization of intracellular iron from ferritin. This process named ferritinophagy results in the degradation of ferritin and the consequent release of iron into the cytosol.
METHODS: Here we demonstrate that NCOA4 is important for the adaptation of the HT22 mouse hippocampal neuronal cell line to cellular iron restriction. Additionally, we determined the pathophysiological implications of impaired ferritinophagy via functional analysis of the omics profile of HT22 cells deficient in NCOA4.
RESULTS: NCOA4 silencing impaired ferritin turnover and was cytotoxic when cells were restricted of iron. Quantitative proteomics identified IRP2 accumulation among the most prominent protein responses produced by NCOA4 depletion in HT22 cells, which is indicative of functional iron deficiency. Additionally, proteins of apoptotic signaling pathway were enriched by those responsive to NCOA4 deficiency. Transcriptome profiles of NCOA4 depletion revealed neuronal cell death, differentiation of neurons, and development of neurons as potential diseases and bio functions affected by impaired ferritinophagy, particularly, when iron was restricted.
DISCUSSION: These findings identify an integral role of NCOA4-mediated ferritinophagy in the maintenance of iron homeostasis by HT22 cells, and its potential implications in controlling genetic pathways of neurodevelopment and neurodegenerative diseases.