Iron deficiency on neuronal function

Biometals. 2012 Aug;25(4):825-35. doi: 10.1007/s10534-012-9550-x. Epub 2012 May 26.


Because of the intrinsic ability of iron to catalyze the formation of reactive oxygen species, it has been associated with oxidative stress and neurodegenerative diseases. However, iron deficiency (ID) also negatively impacts various functions of the brain, suggesting that iron plays an important physiological role in neuronal processes such as myelination, synaptogenesis, behavior and synaptic plasticity (SP). ID not only produces changes in the hippocampus, striatum, amygdale or prefrontal cortex, it also affects the interaction among these systems. In both humans and rodents, the perturbations of these structures are associated to cognitive deficits. These cognitive alterations have been well correlated with changes in neural plasticity, the possible cellular substrate of memory and learning. Given that SP is strongly affected by early ID and the lasting-neurological consequences remain even after ID has been corrected, it is important to prevent ID as well as to seek effective therapeutic interventions that reduce or reverse the long-term effects of the ID in the nervous system. This review will give an overview of the literature on the effects of iron deficit in neuronal functions such as behavior, neurotransmission and SP. We also discuss our recent data about the possible oxidative effect of iron on the mechanisms involved in neural plasticity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology
  • Cognition Disorders / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / genetics
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Synapses / metabolism


  • Iron