Iron accumulation and associated oxidative stress in the brain have been consistently found in several neurodegenerative diseases. Multiple genetic studies have been undertaken to try to identify a cause of neurodegenerative diseases but direct connections have been rare. In the iron field, variants in the HFE gene that give rise to a protein involved in cellular iron regulation, are associated with iron accumulation in multiple organs including the brain. There is also substantial epidemiological, genetic, and molecular evidence of disruption of cholesterol homeostasis in several neurodegenerative diseases, in particular Alzheimer's disease (AD). Despite the efforts that have been made to identify factors that can trigger the pathological events associated with neurodegenerative diseases they remain mostly unknown. Because molecular phenotypes such as oxidative stress, synaptic failure, neuronal loss, and cognitive decline, characteristics associated with AD, have been shown to result from disruption of a number of pathways, one can easily argue that the phenotype seen may not arise from a linear sequence of events. Therefore, a multi-targeted approach is needed to understand a complex disorder like AD. This can be achieved only when knowledge about interactions between the different pathways and the potential influence of environmental factors on them becomes available. Toward this end, this review discusses what is known about the roles and interactions of iron and cholesterol in neurodegenerative diseases. It highlights the effects of gene variants of HFE (H63D- and C282Y-HFE) on iron and cholesterol metabolism and how they may contribute to understanding the etiology of complex neurodegenerative diseases.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pharmacology (medical)