, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 825–835 | Cite as

Iron deficiency on neuronal function



Because of the intrinsic ability of iron to catalyze the formation of reactive oxygen species, it has been associated with oxidative stress and neurodegenerative diseases. However, iron deficiency (ID) also negatively impacts various functions of the brain, suggesting that iron plays an important physiological role in neuronal processes such as myelination, synaptogenesis, behavior and synaptic plasticity (SP). ID not only produces changes in the hippocampus, striatum, amygdale or prefrontal cortex, it also affects the interaction among these systems. In both humans and rodents, the perturbations of these structures are associated to cognitive deficits. These cognitive alterations have been well correlated with changes in neural plasticity, the possible cellular substrate of memory and learning. Given that SP is strongly affected by early ID and the lasting-neurological consequences remain even after ID has been corrected, it is important to prevent ID as well as to seek effective therapeutic interventions that reduce or reverse the long-term effects of the ID in the nervous system. This review will give an overview of the literature on the effects of iron deficit in neuronal functions such as behavior, neurotransmission and SP. We also discuss our recent data about the possible oxidative effect of iron on the mechanisms involved in neural plasticity.


Iron Synaptic plasticity Calcium signaling Hippocampus Cognitive impartment 



Reactive oxygen species


Iron deficiency


Synaptic plasticity


Central nervous system


Prefrontal cortex


Divalent metal transporter 1




Long-term potentiation


Paired-pulse facilitation




N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor




Ry receptor


Calcium-induced calcium release


Miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents


Artificial cerebrospinal fluid


Field excitatory post-synaptic potential


Labile iron pool





We thank G. Barrientos for critically reading the manuscript. This work was supported by Millennium Scientific Initiative Grant ICM (P09-022-F) and COPEC-UC foundation (8C055).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro Interdisciplinario de Neurociencias de ValparaísoUniversidad de ValparaísoValparaisoChile
  2. 2.CEMC, Facultad de MedicinaUniversidad de ChileSantiagoChile
  3. 3.IBALAB, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad de ChileSantiagoChile
  4. 4.Departamento de Morfofunción, Facultad de MedicinaUniversidad Diego PortalesUbicaciónChile

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