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J Neurosci. 2012 Apr 4;32(14):5010-5. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0526-12.2012.

Iron deficiency disrupts axon maturation of the developing auditory nerve.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York 14642, USA.


Iron is critical in multiple aspects of CNS development, but its role in neurodevelopment--the ability of iron deficiency to alter normal development--is difficult to dissociate from the effects of anemia. We developed a novel dietary restriction model in the rat that allows us to study the effects of iron deficiency in the absence of severe anemia. Using a combination of auditory brainstem response analyses (ABR) and electron microscopy, we identified an unexpected impact of nonanemic iron deficiency on axonal diameter and neurofilament regulation in the auditory nerve. These changes are associated with altered ABR latency during development. In contrast to models of severe iron deficiency with anemia, we did not find consistent or prolonged defects in myelination. Our data demonstrate that iron deficiency in the absence of anemia disrupts normal development of the auditory nerve and results in altered conduction velocity.

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