Hereditary ferritinopathy: a novel mutation, its cellular pathology, and pathogenetic insights

J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2005 Apr;64(4):280-94. doi: 10.1093/jnen/64.4.280.


We report a family of French Canadian and Dutch ancestry with hereditary ferritinopathy (neuroferritinopathy) and a novel mutation (C insertion at nt646-647 in exon 4) in the ferritin light chain gene, resulting in a longer than normal protein. Our failure to immunostain most of the abnormal ferritin deposits in the proband with a conformation-dependent monoclonal antibody to ferritin light chain supported a previously postulated conformational change of ferritin light chain in this disease. The posterior putamen and cerebellum were the primary pathologic loci in our proband, but asymptomatic hepatocytic intranuclear accumulations of iron and ferritin also were present. Both neurons and glia displayed highly distinctive, if not pathognomonic, swollen to vacuolated nuclei containing ferritin and iron. Hyaline deposits, again staining for both ferritin and iron, were additional morphologic features that may be unique to the ferritinopathies. The iron, at least in putamen where there was a nearly 40-fold increase, appeared to be both in the ferrous (Fe2+) and ferric (Fe3+) form; it was the most likely cause of the observed neuronal and glial apoptosis. We found morphologic evidence of both lipid peroxidation and abnormal nitration of proteins in putaminal neurons and glia, confirming the expected oxidative stress due to this excessive iron. Biochemical and immunohistochemical abnormalities in mitochondria also were demonstrated, probably due to an imbalance in iron homeostasis that had a deleterious effect on the respiratory chain.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Biomarkers
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Copper / metabolism
  • Diet Therapy
  • Female
  • Ferritins / metabolism*
  • Hepatocytes / pathology
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron Metabolism Disorders / diagnosis
  • Iron Metabolism Disorders / genetics*
  • Iron Metabolism Disorders / pathology*
  • Iron Metabolism Disorders / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure


  • Biomarkers
  • Copper
  • Ferritins
  • Iron