Expression of transferrin receptor and ferritin following ferumoxides-protamine sulfate labeling of cells: Implications for cellular magnetic resonance imaging

Edyta Pawelczyk, Ali S. Arbab, Sunil Pandit, Elbert Hu, Joseph A. Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

105 Scopus citations


Ferumoxides-protamine sulfate (FE-Pro) complexes are used for intracellular magnetic labeling of cells to non-invasively monitor cell trafficking by in vivo MRI. FE-Pro labeling is non-toxic to cells; however, the effects of FE-Pro labeling on cellular expression of transferrin receptor (TfR- 1) and ferritin, proteins involved in iron transport and storage, has not been reported. FE-Pro-labeled human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), HeLa cells and primary macrophages were cultured from 1 week to 2 months and evaluated for TfR- 1 and ferritin gene expression by RT-PCR and protein levels were determined using Western blots. MTT (proliferation assay) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) analysis were performed. FE-Pro labeling of HeLa and MSCs resulted in a transient decrease in TfR- 1 mRNA and protein levels. In contrast, Fe-Pro labeling of primary macrophages resulted in an increase in TfR-1 mRNA but not in TfR-1 protein levels. Ferritin mRNA and protein levels increased transiently in labeled HeLa and macrophages but were sustained in MSCs. No changes in MTT and ROS analysis were noted. In conclusion, FE-Pro labeling elicited physiological changes of iron metabolism or storage, validating the safety of this procedure for cellular tracking by MRI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)581-592
Number of pages12
JournalNMR in Biomedicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2006
Externally publishedYes



  • Cell labeling
  • Ferritin
  • Ferumoxides
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Primary macrophages
  • Protamine sulfate
  • SPIO
  • Transferrin receptor (TfR-1)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Spectroscopy

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