Iron availability regulates ferritin synthesis posttranscriptionally by the interaction between iron-regulatory proteins (IRPs) and an iron responsive element (IRE), a stem-loop sequence located on the 5' untranslated region of ferritin mRNA. IRPs recognize IREs as a sequence/structure motif, blocking ferritin translation. Recently, we and others independently described families with a combination of hyperferritinemia (serum L-ferritin gtoreq 1,000 mu-g/L, without iron overload) and congenital bilateral cataract, transmitted as an autosomal-dominant trait. The molecular basis were two distinct point mutations in the highly conserved CAGUG(X) hexaloop of L-ferritin IRE on chromosome 19. A new three-generation family with a similar phenotype and a unique genotype is here reported. DNA amplification by polymerase chain reaction and sequence analysis showed a 29-base pair deletion in the L-ferritin IRE, involving the whole 5' sequence essential to the base pairing of the IRE stem. This deletion is predicted to cause the disruption of IRE stem-loop secondary structure and the nearly complete abolition of the negative control of ferritin synthesis by IRE/IRP binding. Hereditary Hyperferritinemia-Cataract Syndrome (HHCS) appears as a new genetic disorder with a unique phenotype associated with at least four different mutations in the L-ferritin IRE. Hematologists should take into account HHCS in the differential diagnosis of unexplained hyperferritinemia.
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