Purified tissue ferritins isolated from Bantu subjects with gross haemosiderosis, from a patient with idiopathic haemochromatosis (HC) treated by phlebotomy, and from rats with experimental iron overload were studied in order to determine the significance of the abnormality previously demonstrated in tissue isoferritins in patients with IHC. The isoferrin profile of the tissues from the Bantu subjects and the iron-loaded rats showed a similar abnormality to that previously found in patients with untreated IHC--that is, an abnormally uniform distribution of iron-containing isoferritins with an increase in the more basic isoferritins and an apparent absence of the more acidic ones. In contrast, tissues from the patient with treated IHC, who was iron depleted at the time of death, showed the normal organ-specific isoferritin distribution. These findings strongly suggest that the abnormal distribution of tissue isoferritins in IHC is an acquired phenomenon and unlikely to be related to an underlying genetic defect in ferritin or iron metabolism.
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