Recently, we described a new genetic disorder (the "hereditary hyperferritinemia-cataract syndrome") clinically characterized by the combination of elevated serum ferritin and congenital bilateral nuclear cataract, both cotransmitted as an autosomal dominant trait. In affected subjects, hyperferritinemia (ranging from 950 to 2,259 mu-g/L) is typically not related to iron overload. Differently from subjects with hereditary hemochromatosis, they have normal to low levels of serum iron and percent of transferrin saturation and absence of iron overload in parenchymal organs. When unnecessary phlebotomies are performed, they rapidly develop iron-deficient anemia, with persistently elevated levels of serum ferritin. By RNA-single-strand conformation polymorphism screening of the L-subunit ferritin gene on chromosome 19, we were able to identify in affected subjects a mutation in the 5' untranslated region. This mutation involves the five nucleotides sequence (CAGUG) of the iron-responsive element (IRE), which is critical for the posttranscriptional regulation of ferritin synthesis by means of IRE-binding protein (IRE-BP). Thus, it is very likely to provide the molecular basis for the iron-insensitive upregulation of ferritin synthesis in affected subjects.
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