Regional distribution of iron and iron‐regulatory proteins in the brain in aging and Alzheimer's disease

James Connor, B. S. Snyder, J. L. Beard, R. E. Fine, E. J. Mufson

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312 Scopus citations


It is well established that iron, which is of considerable importance for normal neurological function, is highly regulated in all organ systems. However, until recently, iron regulation in the nervous system has received little attention. This study quantitatively compares the levels of the major iron‐regulatory proteins, transferrin and ferritin, and iron itself in three cerebral cortical regions of the human brain from material collected at autopsy. Three groups were studied: (1) normal adult (under 65 yr of age), (2) aged (> 65), and (3) Alzheimer's disease. Normally, transferrin is more abundant in white matter than in gray matter. Ferritin is approximately 10 x more abundant than transferrin throughout the brain regions examined and is evenly distributed, as is iron, in the gray and white matter. In Alzheimer's disease transferrin is consistently decreased particularly in the white matter of the various cerebral cortical regions examined whereas the iron and ferritin changes are inconsistent. The observations In this study are consistent with our general hypothesis that iron homeostasis is disrupted in the aging brain and the alterations in iron‐regulatory proteins are exacerbated in Alzheimer's disease. The decrease in transferrin levels could indicate a decreased mobility and subsequent utilization of iron in the brain. Such a decrease in iron availability could play a significant role in neuronal degeneration and increased peroxidative damage known to occur in Alzheimer's disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-335
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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