Variations in dietary iron alter brain iron metabolism in developing rats

Domingo J. Piñero, Nan Qian Li, James Connor, John L. Beard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

148 Citations (SciVal)


The rat has been widely used as a model for the study of iron deficiency (ID), but the differences in the timing of development of humans and rats must be taken into account to derive appropriate conclusions from the animal model. This study was designed to evaluate the effects of dietary ID and iron excess on rat brain iron and the iron metabolism proteins, transferrin (Tf), transferrin receptor (TfR) and ferritin. The experimental design is developmentally sensitive and permits control of the timing as well as the duration of the nutritional insult. Iron-deficient and iron-supplemented (SU) rats between postnatal day (PND) 10 and 21, PND 21 and 35 and PND 10 and 35 were used to study the effects of early, late, and long-term iron deficiency and supplementation. Some ID rats were iron repleted between PND 21 and 35. These experiments demonstrated several new findings: 1) Early ID/SU (PND 10- 21) altered brain iron, TfR, Tf and ferritin concentration in many regions different from those observed in the later period (PND 21-35). 2) Two weeks of iron repletion were adequate for correcting the overall Fe concentration of the brain and of individual brain regions, although larger amounts of iron were necessary to fully normalize iron and its regulatory proteins. 3) Long- term ID/SU resulted accordingly in the continued decrease or increase in brain iron concentration in some brain regions and not others. In conclusion, brain regions regulate their iron concentration in response to local needs when faced with alterations in systemic iron delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)254-263
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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