Hemojuvelin (hjv), a member of the repulsive-guidance molecule (RGM) family upregulates the iron regulatory hormone hepcidin in a BMP-dependent manner in mammalian cells. A mutation interfering with hjv’s ability to bind neogenin has been identified in patients with juvenile hemochromatosis, while furin cleavage of hjv has also been implicated in its function. Previously, we demonstrated that hepcidin expression in zebrafish embryos increases in response to iron loading or activation of the BMP pathway. We hypothesized that hjv would regulate hepcidin expression in zebrafish embryos and used whole mount in situ hybridization and morpholino knockdowns to study the expression and function of hjv. We found that hjv is strongly and sequentially expressed in the notochord and somites and that knockdown of hjv resulted in severe defects in these structures. Hjv was not expressed in the liver and knockdown of hjv failed to affect the timing, intensity, or location of hepcidin expression. Furthermore, knockdown of hjv failed to prevent the upregulation of hepcidin expression caused by overexpression of BMP2b. Zebrafish hjv exhibits conservation at the site required for binding neogenin, however zebrafish hjv and all nonmammalian RGM’s lack the furin cleavage motif. We found that morpholino knockdown of the zebrafish orthologs of neogenin or furin failed to affect hepcidin expression. Taken together, these data indicate that

  1. regulation of hepcidin expression in the zebrafish embryo is BMP-responsive, but independent of hjv, furin, or neogenin

  2. zebrafish hjv participates in notochord and somite development, which we propose as the ancestral function of hjv.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes

Corresponding author