β-Thalassemias are a group of inherited blood disorders caused by loss of β-globin synthesis and are characterized by anemia, extramedullary hematopoiesis and ineffective erythropoiesis leading to secondary iron overload. Increased iron absorption is due to inappropriately low levels of the liver hormone, hepcidin (HAMP). The membrane serine protease Matriptase-2 (TMPRSS6) attenuates BMP-mediated HAMP induction by cleaving the BMP co-receptor, hemojuvelin (HJV). Previously, we demonstrated that an RNAi-therapeutic targeting Tmprss6 elevates hepcidin expression and reduces disease severity in the Hbbth3/+ mouse model of β-Thalassemia intermedia (Blood. 2013; 14;121(7):1200-8). To further interrogate the efficacy of this therapeutic approach, Hbbth3/+ animals were treated with a siRNA directed against Tmprss6 on a replete 50ppm iron diet, a low iron diet (3-5ppm iron) or a 50ppm iron diet containing deferiprone.

Systemic administration of an siRNA directed against Tmprss6 in the three diet conditions leads to significant inhibition of Tmprss6 mRNA in the livers of Hbbth3/+ mice with concomitant elevation in hepcidin expression. In correspondence with earlier studies, we demonstrate here that Tmprss6 silencing in animals under each of the three diet regimens leads to a significant improvement in the anemia of Hbbth3/+ mice as evidenced by increased total hemoglobin. Furthermore, hallmarks of ineffective erythropoiesis, including splenomegaly and reticulocytosis, were decreased in all Tmprss6 silenced Hbbth3/+ animals. If untreated, excessive iron loading in humans with β-Thalassemia leads to tissue iron deposition and eventual organ damage and failure. Importantly, here we demonstrate that the total body iron burden of Hbbth3/+ mice, as assessed by non-heme liver iron, is decreased by almost 30% in animals chelated with oral deferiprone and treated with Tmprss6 siRNA. A similar diminution of iron deposition is not evident in animals on a low iron diet or in mice fed deferiprone alone. Taken together, this data suggest that siRNA suppression of Tmprss6, in conjunction with chelation therapy, may provide an improved modality for treatment of the anemia and secondary iron loading seen in hemoglobinopathies such as β-Thalassemia.


Racie:Alnylam Pharmaceutical, Inc: Employment. Butler:Alnylam Pharmaceutical, Inc: Employment. Fitzgerald:Alnylam: Employment. Fleming:Alnylam Pharmaceutical, Inc: Research Funding.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.