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Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz

Print version ISSN 0074-0276On-line version ISSN 1678-8060

Mem. Inst. Oswaldo Cruz vol.87  suppl.5 Rio de Janeiro  1992 

T lymphocytes and iron overload: novel correlations of possible significance to the biology of the immunological system

Maria de Sousa1 

Universidade do Porto, Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar, Porto, Portugal


This paper is written in the context of our changing preception of the immunological system as a system with possible biological roles exceding the prevailung view of a system concerned principally with the defense against external pathogens. The view discussed here relates the immunological system inextricably to the metabolism of iron, the circulation of the blood and the resolution of the evolutionary paradox created by oxygen and iron. Indirect evidence for this inextricable relationship between the two systems can be derived from the discrepancy between the theoretical quasi-impossibility of the existence of an iron deficiency state in the adult and the reality of the WHO numbers of people in the world with iron deficiency anemia. With mounting evidence that TNF, IL-1, and T lymphocyte cytokines affect hemopoieisis and iron metabolism it is possible that the reported discrepancy is a reflection of that inextricable interdependence between the two systems in the face of infection. Further direct evidence for a relationship between T cell subset numbers and iron metabolism is presented from the results of a study of T cell populations in patients with hereditary hemochromatosis. The recent finding of a correlation between low CD8+ lymphocite numbers, liver demage associated with HCVpositivity and severity of iron overload in B-thalassemia major patients (umpublished data of RW Grandy; P. Giardina, M. Hilgartner) concludes this review.

Key words: T lymphocytes; iron; hemochromatosis; extracellular matrix


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