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Bioessays. 2009 Dec;31(12):1309-17. doi: 10.1002/bies.200900101.

Iron metabolism: microbes, mouse, and man.

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King's College London, Nutritional Sciences Division, School of Biomedical and Health Sciences, Franklin-Wilkins Building, London SE1 9NH, United Kingdom.


Recent advances in research on iron metabolism have revealed the identity of a number of genes, signal transduction pathways, and proteins involved in iron regulation in mammals. The emerging paradigm is a coordination of homeostasis within a network of classical iron metabolic pathways and other cellular processes such as cell differentiation, growth, inflammation, immunity, and a host of physiologic and pathologic conditions. Iron, immunity, and infection are intricately linked and their regulation is fundamental to the survival of mammals. The mutual dependence on iron by the host and invading pathogenic organisms elicits competition for the element during infection. While the host maintains mechanisms to utilize iron for its own metabolism exclusively, pathogenic organisms are armed with a myriad of strategies to circumvent these measures. This review explores iron metabolism in mammalian host, defense mechanisms against pathogenic microbes and the competitive devices of microbes for access to iron.

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