Clinical severity is heterogeneous among patients suffering from congenital erythropoietic porphyria (CEP) suggesting a modulation of the disease (UROS deficiency) by environmental factors and modifier genes. A KI model of CEP due to a missense mutation of UROS gene present in human has been developed on 3 congenic mouse strains (BALB/c, C57BL/6, and 129/Sv) in order to study the impact of genetic background on disease severity. To detect putative modifiers of disease expression in congenic mice, hematologic data, iron parameters, porphyrin content and tissue samples were collected.

Regenerative hemolytic anemia, a consequence of porphyrin excess in RBCs, had various expressions: 129/Sv mice were more hemolytic, BALB/c had more regenerative response to anemia, C57BL/6 were less affected. Iron status and hemolysis level were directly related: C57BL/6 and BALB/c had moderate hemolysis and active erythropoiesis able to reduce iron overload in the liver, while, 129/Sv showed an imbalance between iron release due to hemolysis and erythroid use.

The negative control of hepcidin on the ferroportin iron exporter appeared strain specific in the CEP mice models tested. Full repression of hepcidin was observed in BALB/c and 129/Sv mice, favoring parenchymal iron overload in the liver. Unchanged hepcidin levels in C57BL/6 resulted in retention of iron predominantly in reticuloendothelial tissues. These findings open the field for potential therapeutic applications in the human disease, of hepcidin agonists and iron depletion in chronic hemolytic anemia.