In-depth review: is hepcidin a marker for the heart and the kidney?

Mol Cell Biochem. 2021 Sep;476(9):3365-3381. doi: 10.1007/s11010-021-04168-4. Epub 2021 May 4.


Iron is an essential trace element involved in oxidation-reduction reactions, oxygen transport and storage, and energy metabolism. Iron in excess can be toxic for cells, since iron produces reactive oxygen species and is important for survival of pathogenic microbes. There is a fine-tuning in the regulation of serum iron levels, determined by intestinal absorption, macrophage iron recycling, and mobilization of hepatocyte stores versus iron utilization, primarily by erythroid cells in the bone marrow. Hepcidin is the major regulatory hormone of systemic iron homeostasis and is upregulated during inflammation. Hepcidin metabolism is altered in chronic kidney disease. Ferroportin is an iron export protein and mediates iron release into the circulation from duodenal enterocytes, splenic reticuloendothelial macrophages, and hepatocytes. Systemic iron homeostasis is controlled by the hepcidin-ferroportin axis at the sites of iron entry into the circulation. Hepcidin binds to ferroportin, induces its internalization and intracellular degradation, and thus inhibits iron absorption from enterocytes, and iron release from macrophages and hepatocytes. Recent data suggest that hepcidin, by slowing or preventing the mobilization of iron from macrophages, may promote atherosclerosis and may be associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk. This article reviews the current data regarding the molecular and cellular pathways of systemic and autocrine hepcidin production and seeks the answer to the question whether changes in hepcidin translate into clinical outcomes of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, and cardiovascular and renal end-points.

Keywords: Acute kidney injury; All-cause mortality; Cardiovascular mortality; Chronic kidney disease; Coronary artery disease; Hepcidin; Inflammation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Hepcidins / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis*
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Kidney Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Kidney Diseases / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Hepcidins
  • Iron