Iron dysregulation in the brain is thought to contribute to the oxidative damage seen in neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. A role for iron in the oxidative stress thought to contribute to normal ageing is less certain. To better characterize the role of iron in normal ageing, the concentrations of iron, transferring, ferritin, and protein carbonyl groups are measured in nine separate regions of Fischer 344 rats. The largest (approximately 30%) age- related increases in brain iron concentration are seen in the temporal cortex, medial septum, and cerebellum. Ferritin concentration in these same brain regions increases 50 to 250% with age, while protein carbonyl concentration is only 27 to +4% of young rats. These results indicate that an increase in the major iron-binding protein ferritin compensates for any age- related increase in iron concentration, and suggest that the increased ferritin is cytoprotective, serving to prevent the accumulation of protein carbonyl groups (a principal product of metal-catalysed oxidation of proteins.
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