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Genes Nutr. 2006 Mar;1(1):25-39. doi: 10.1007/BF02829934.

A precious metal: Iron, an essential nutrient for all cells.

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Institute of General Pathology Generale, Università di Milano, Via Mangiagalli 31, 20133, Milan, Italy,


Iron is an important cofactor required for a number of essential cell functions and hence is a vital nutrient. However, iron can also be dangerous as a catalyst of free radical reactions. Accordingly, intracellular iron homeostasis and body iron balance are tightly regulated. In this review, we presented an overview of the remarkable new insights that over the last years have been gained into the multifaceted and sophisticated molecular mechanisms controlling iron acquisition, storage and release. We also reviewed the data about nutrition-related abnormalities of iron metabolism, such as iron overload and deficiency. Finally, we discussed how pathogenic microorganisms and host cells compete for iron, a battle whose outcome has a relevant role in infectious disease.

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