Iron and the immune system

J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2011 Mar;118(3):315-28. doi: 10.1007/s00702-010-0479-3. Epub 2010 Sep 29.


Iron and immunity are closely linked: firstly by the fact that many of the genes/proteins involved in iron homoeostasis play a vital role in controlling iron fluxes such that bacteria are prevented from utilising iron for growth; secondly, cells of the innate immune system, monocytes, macrophages, microglia and lymphocytes, are able to combat bacterial insults by carefully controlling their iron fluxes, which are mediated by hepcidin and ferroportin. In addition, lymphocytes play an important role in adaptive immunity. Thirdly, a variety of effector molecules, e.g. toll-like receptors, NF-κB, hypoxia factor-1, haem oxygenase, will orchestrate the inflammatory response by mobilising a variety of cytokines, neurotrophic factors, chemokines, and reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. Pathologies, where iron loading and depletion occur, may adversely affect the ability of the cell to respond to the bacterial insult.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immune System / immunology*
  • Immune System / metabolism
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Microglia / immunology*
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Toll-Like Receptors / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptors / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Iron