Viral infection and iron metabolism

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2008 Jul;6(7):541-52. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro1930.


Fundamental cellular operations, including DNA synthesis and the generation of ATP, require iron. Viruses hijack cells in order to replicate, and efficient replication needs an iron-replete host. Some viruses selectively infect iron-acquiring cells by binding to transferrin receptor 1 during cell entry. Other viruses alter the expression of proteins involved in iron homeostasis, such as HFE and hepcidin. In HIV-1 and hepatitis C virus infections, iron overload is associated with poor prognosis and could be partly caused by the viruses themselves. Understanding how iron metabolism and viral infection interact might suggest new methods to control disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / metabolism
  • Hepcidins
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron Overload
  • Virus Diseases / metabolism*
  • Virus Replication / physiology


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • HAMP protein, human
  • Hepcidins
  • Iron