Open Access Research

Comparisons of the iron deficient metabolic response in rats fed either an AIN-76 or AIN-93 based diet

McKale R Davis, Kristen K Hester, Krista M Shawron, Edralin A Lucas, Brenda J Smith and Stephen L Clarke*

Author Affiliations

Department of Nutritional Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Nutrition & Metabolism 2012, 9:95  doi:10.1186/1743-7075-9-95

Published: 30 October 2012



Previous studies examining the metabolic consequences of dietary iron deficiency have reported elevated serum glucose concentrations in iron-deficient animals. Importantly, the majority of these findings were observed using an earlier version of a laboratory animal diet (AIN-76A) in which the primary carbohydrate source was sucrose – a disaccharide known to negatively impact both glucose and lipid homeostasis. The AIN-76A diet formula was improved in 1993 (AIN-93) to optimize animal nutrition with a major change being the substitution of cornstarch for sucrose. Therefore, we sought to examine the effects of iron deficiency on steady-state glucose homeostasis and the hepatic expression of glucose- and lipid-related genes in rats fed an iron-deficient diet based on either an AIN-76A or AIN-93 diet.


The study design consisted of 6 treatment groups: control (C; 40 mg Fe/kg diet), iron deficient (ID; ≤ 3 mg Fe/kg diet), or pair-fed (PF; 40 mg Fe/kg) fed either an AIN-76A or AIN-93 diet for 21 d. Hemoglobin and hematocrit were measured in whole blood. Serum insulin and cortisol were measure by ELISA. Serum glucose and triacylglycerols were measured by standard colorimetric enzyme assays. Alterations in hepatic gene expression were determined by real-time qPCR.


Hemoglobin and hematocrit were significantly reduced in both ID groups compared to the C and PF groups. Similarly, animals in the both ID groups exhibited elevated steady-state levels of blood glucose and insulin, and significantly decreased levels of circulating cortisol compared to their respective PF controls. Serum triacyglycerols were only increased in ID animals consuming the AIN-76A diet. Hepatic gene expression analyses revealed a ~4- and 3-fold increase in the expression of glucokinase and pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase-4 mRNA, respectively, in the ID group on either diet compared to their respective PF counterparts. In contrast, the expression of lipogenic genes was significantly elevated in the AIN-76 ID group, while expression of these genes was unaffected by iron status in the AIN-93 ID group.


These results indicate that an impaired iron status is sufficient to alter glucose homeostasis, though alterations in lipid metabolism associated with ID are only observed in animals receiving the AIN-76A diet.

Hyperglycemia; Lipogenesis; Insulin; Metabolism; Iron deficiency