Brain iron toxicity: differential responses of astrocytes, neurons, and endothelial cells

Neurochem Res. 2007 Jul;32(7):1196-208. doi: 10.1007/s11064-007-9290-4. Epub 2007 Apr 3.


Iron accumulation or iron overload in brain is commonly associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, and also plays a role in cellular damage following hemorrhagic stroke and traumatic brain injury. Despite the brain's highly regulated system for iron utilization and metabolism, these disorders often present following disruptions within iron metabolic pathways. Such dysregulation allows saturation of proteins involved in iron transport and storage, and may cause an increase in free ferrous iron within brain leading to oxidative damage. Not only do astrocytes, neurons, and brain endothelial cells serve unique purposes within the brain, but their individual cell types are equipped with distinct protective mechanisms against iron-induced injury. This review evaluates iron metabolism within the brain under homeostatic and pathological conditions and focuses on the mechanism(s) of brain cellular iron toxicity and differential responses of astrocytes, neurons, and brain vascular endothelial cells to excessive free iron.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Hemorrhage / metabolism
  • Hemorrhage / pathology
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Iron / toxicity*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Neurons / metabolism*


  • Iron