Astrocyte-derived hepcidin controls iron traffic at the blood-brain-barrier via regulating ferroportin 1 of microvascular endothelial cells

Cell Death Dis. 2022 Aug 1;13(8):667. doi: 10.1038/s41419-022-05043-w.


Brain iron dysregulation associated with aging is closely related to motor and cognitive impairments in neurodegenerative diseases. The regulation of iron traffic at the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is crucial to maintain brain iron homeostasis. However, the specific mechanism has not been clarified in detail. Using various conditional gene knockout and overexpression mice, as well as cell co-culture of astrocyte and bEND.3 in the transwell, we found that astrocyte hepcidin knockdown increased the expression of ferroportin 1 (FPN1) of brain microvascular endothelial cells (BMVECs), and that it also induced brain iron overload and cognitive decline in mice. Moreover, BMVECs FPN1 knockout decreased iron contents in the cortex and hippocampus. Furthermore, hepcidin regulates the level of FPN1 of BMVECs with conditional gene overexpression in vivo and in vitro. Our results revealed that astrocytes responded to the intracellular high iron level and increased the secretion of hepcidin, which in turn diminished iron uptake at BBB from circulation through directly regulating FPN1 of BMVECs. Our results demonstrate that FPN1 of BMVECs is a gateway for iron transport into the brain from circulation, and the controller of this gateway is hepcidin secreted by astrocyte at its endfeet through physical contact with BMVECs. This regulation is indeed the major checkpoint for iron transport from the blood circulation to the brain. This study delineates the pathway and regulation of iron entry into the brain, providing potential therapeutic targets for iron dysregulation-related neurological diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism
  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Hepcidins* / genetics
  • Hepcidins* / metabolism
  • Iron* / metabolism
  • Mice


  • Cation Transport Proteins
  • Hepcidins
  • metal transporting protein 1
  • Iron