Iron is essential for oligodendrocyte genesis following intraspinal macrophage activation

Exp Neurol. 2009 Jul;218(1):64-74. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2009.04.005. Epub 2009 Apr 15.


Progenitor proliferation and differentiation are necessary for oligodendrocyte replacement. Previously, we showed that intraspinal activation of microglia and macrophages with the TLR4 agonist lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced robust oligodendrocyte genesis. In this study we investigated whether this process involves iron since LPS can alter macrophage regulation of iron and its storage protein ferritin, and oligodendrocytes require iron for proper development and myelination. Further, activated macrophages can sequester and release iron and ferritin. We first examined whether iron or ferritin was present following LPS microinjection. Using Perl's stain, we noted a slight increase in iron at 1d, and peak iron levels 3d post-injection coincident with maximal macrophage activation. Ferritin+ cells were prevalent by 3d and included macrophages and NG2 cells (putative oligodendrocyte progenitors). At 7d, ferritin was mainly expressed by new oligodendrocytes prevalent throughout the lesions. Because of the timing and distribution of iron and ferritin after LPS, we next used an iron chelator to test whether free iron was necessary for maximal LPS-induced oligodendrocyte genesis. Chelating iron by Deferasirox (Exjade) after LPS microinjection significantly reduced the number of proliferating NG2 cells and new oligodendrocytes. Of the remaining oligodendrocytes, there was a 2-fold decrease in those expressing ferritin, revealing that the number of oligodendrocytes with high iron stores was reduced. Collectively, these results establish that iron accumulates after intraspinal TLR4 activation and is required for maximal TLR4-induced oligodendrogenesis. Since TLR4 agonists are abundant in CNS injury/disease sites, these results suggest that iron may be essential for macrophage/oligodendrocyte communication and adult glial replacement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens / metabolism
  • Benzoates / administration & dosage
  • Bromodeoxyuridine / metabolism
  • CD11b Antigen / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation* / drug effects
  • Deferasirox
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Ferritins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Injections, Spinal / methods
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron Chelating Agents / administration & dosage
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Macrophage Activation / drug effects
  • Macrophage Activation / physiology*
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / physiology*
  • Oligodendroglia / drug effects
  • Oligodendroglia / physiology*
  • Proteoglycans / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Time Factors
  • Triazoles / administration & dosage


  • Antigens
  • Benzoates
  • CD11b Antigen
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Iron Chelating Agents
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Proteoglycans
  • Triazoles
  • chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan 4
  • Ferritins
  • Iron
  • Bromodeoxyuridine
  • Deferasirox