The Molecular Mechanisms of Iron Metabolism and Its Role in Cardiac Dysfunction and Cardioprotection

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Oct 24;21(21):7889. doi: 10.3390/ijms21217889.


Iron is an essential mineral participating in different functions of the organism under physiological conditions. Numerous biological processes, such as oxygen and lipid metabolism, protein production, cellular respiration, and DNA synthesis, require the presence of iron, and mitochondria play an important role in the processes of iron metabolism. In addition to its physiological role, iron may be also involved in the adaptive processes of myocardial "conditioning". On the other hand, disorders of iron metabolism are involved in the pathological mechanisms of the most common human diseases and include a wide range of them, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and accelerate the development of atherosclerosis. Furthermore, iron also exerts potentially deleterious effects that may be manifested under conditions of ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury, myocardial infarction, heart failure, coronary artery angioplasty, or heart transplantation, due to its involvement in reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Moreover, iron has been recently described to participate in the mechanisms of iron-dependent cell death defined as "ferroptosis". Ferroptosis is a form of regulated cell death that is distinct from apoptosis, necroptosis, and other types of cell death. Ferroptosis has been shown to be associated with I/R injury and several other cardiac diseases as a significant form of cell death in cardiomyocytes. In this review, we will discuss the role of iron in cardiovascular diseases, especially in myocardial I/R injury, and protective mechanisms stimulated by different forms of "conditioning" with a special emphasis on the novel targets for cardioprotection.

Keywords: cardioprotection; ferroptosis; iron; mitochondria; myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury; reactive oxygen species.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ferroptosis
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Diseases / complications
  • Metabolic Diseases / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria, Heart / metabolism
  • Myocardial Reperfusion Injury / etiology
  • Myocardial Reperfusion Injury / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Iron