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J Inorg Biochem. 1992 Aug 15-Sep;47(3-4):257-65.

Brain iron homeostasis.

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MRC Neurochemical Pathology Unit, Newcastle General Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.


The anatomical and cellular distribution of non-haem iron, ferritin, transferrin, and the transferrin receptor have been studied in postmortem human brain and these studies, together with data on the uptake and transport of labeled iron, by the rat brain, have been used to elucidate the role of iron and other metal ions in certain neurological disorders. High levels of non-haem iron, mainly in the form of ferritin, are found in the extrapyramidal system, associated predominantly with glial cells. In contrast to non-haem iron, the density of transferrin receptors is highest in cortical and brainstem structures and appears to relate to the iron requirement of neurones for mitochondrial respiratory activity. Transferrin is synthesized within the brain by oligodendrocytes and the choroid plexus, and is present in neurones, consistent with receptor mediated uptake. The uptake of iron into the brain appears to be by a two-stage process involving initial deposition of iron in the brain capillary endothelium by serum transferrin, and subsequent transfer of iron to brain-derived transferrin and transport within the brain to sites with a high transferrin receptor density. A second, as yet unidentified mechanism, may be involved in the transfer of iron from neurones possessing transferrin receptors to sites of storage in glial cells in the extrapyramidal system. The distribution of iron and the transferrin receptor may be of relevance to iron-induced free radical formation and selective neuronal vulnerability in neurodegenerative disorders.

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