Maternal iron supplementation attenuates the impact of perinatal copper deficiency but does not eliminate hypotriiodothyroninemia nor impaired sensorimotor development

J Nutr Biochem. 2011 Nov;22(11):1084-90. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2010.09.007. Epub 2011 Jan 15.


Copper, iron and iodine/thyroid hormone (TH) deficiencies disrupt brain development. Neonatal Cu deficiency causes Fe deficiency and may impact thyroidal status. One purpose of these studies was to determine the impact of improved iron status following Cu deficiency by supplementing the diet with iron. Cu deficiency was produced in pregnant Holtzman [Experiment 1 (Exp. 1)] or Sprague-Dawley [Experiment 2 (Exp. 2)] rats using two different diets. In Exp. 2, dietary Fe content was increased from 35 to 75 mg/kg according to NRC guidelines for reproduction. Cu-deficient (CuD) Postnatal Day 24 (P24) rats from both experiments demonstrated lower hemoglobin, serum Fe and serum triiodothyronine (T3) concentrations. However, brain Fe was lower only in CuD P24 rats in Exp. 1. Hemoglobin and serum Fe were higher in Cu adequate (CuA) P24 rats from Exp. 2 compared to Exp. 1. Cu- and TH-deficient rats from Exp. 2 exhibited a similar sensorimotor functional deficit following 3 months of repletion. Results suggest that Cu deficiency may impact TH status independent of its impact on iron biology. Further research is needed to clarify the individual roles for Cu, Fe and TH in brain development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / analysis
  • Animals
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Copper / deficiency*
  • Copper / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Iron / blood
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Iron, Dietary / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Thyroid Hormones / deficiency
  • Triiodothyronine / blood*


  • Iron, Dietary
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Copper
  • Iron