Iron overload, oxidative stress, and axonal dystrophy in brain disorders

Pediatr Neurol. 2001 Aug;25(2):138-47. doi: 10.1016/s0887-8994(01)00266-1.


Hallervorden-Spatz syndrome is an autosomal-recessive brain disorder with signs of extrapyramidal dysfunction and mental deterioration, which associate with iron accumulation in globus pallidus and substantia nigra pars reticulata. Studies of oxidant stress in parkinsonian animal models suggest a linkage of iron overload to axonal dystrophy. Redox cycling of iron complexes (i.e., ferrous citrate and hemoglobin) increases hydroxyl radicals, lipid peroxidation, axonal dystrophy, and necrotic or apoptotic cell death. An increase of oxidative stress in the basal ganglia because of redox cycling of iron complexes leads to dopamine overflow and psychomotor dysfunction. Iron overload-induced axonal dystrophy has been demonstrated consistently using in vitro and in vivo models with a prominent feature of lipid peroxidation. This iron-induced oxidative stress is often accentuated by ascorbate and oxidized glutathione, although it is suppressed by the following antioxidants: S-nitrosoglutathione or nitric oxide, MnSOD mimics, manganese, U-78517F, Trolox, and deferoxamine. Preconditioning induction of stress proteins (i.e., hemeoxygenase-1 and neuronal nitric oxide synthase) and hypothermia therapy suppress the generation of toxic reactive oxygen, lipid, and thiol species evoked by bioactive iron complexes in the brain. Finally, combined antioxidative therapeutics and gene induction procedures may prove to be useful for slowing progressive neurodegeneration caused by iron overload in the brain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Iron Overload / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Neuroaxonal Dystrophies / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Pantothenate Kinase-Associated Neurodegeneration / metabolism*


  • Iron