Changes in Brain Gene Expression in Nutrient Deficiencies: An Example with Iron

  • Erica L. Unger
  • Narasimha Hegde
  • James R. Connor


Iron is an important element in biological systems, and cellular iron uptake, distribution, and export must be tightly regulated, as both iron deficiency and overload can have deleterious effects on protein, nucleic acid, and lipid contents of the cell. The brain is the organ most vulnerable to iron deficiency during critical periods of development, particularly during the last trimester of fetal life and during the period of brain growth spurt and differentiation. Rodent models have shown that iron deficiency in early life and during adolescence affects both gene expression and the protein levels of a variety of proteins. Genes that are altered by brain iron deficiency are integral to processes including signal transduction, myelin formation, cell growth, energy metabolism, and neurotransmitter signaling. Further, oxidative stress gene profiles of the iron-deficient brain appear similar to those observed in Alzheimer’s disease where iron overaccumulates in neuritic plaques. From the existing literature, it is apparent that while the expression level of many genes can be corrected with iron supplementation, other genes may not be responsive to iron treatment. The presence of genes that are not responsive to treatment suggests that many aspects of brain functioning are likely altered throughout the lifetime leading to undesirable behavioral outcomes.


Iron Deficiency Transferrin Receptor Iron Homeostasis Divalent Metal Transporter Locus Ceruleus 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Cerebrospinal fluid


Interstitial fluid


T-cell immunoglobulin and mucin domain-containing protein 2


Iron regulatory protein


Iron responsive element


Untranslated region


Mammalian target of rapamycin


Calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II alpha


Brain derived neurotrophic factor


Arachidonic acid


Myelin basic protein


Myelin-oligodendrocyte glycoprotein


Myelin and lymphocyte protein


Myelin-associated oligodendrocytic basic protein


Peripheral myelin protein 22


Proteolipid protein


Dopamine transporter


Gamma-aminobutyric acid


Gamma-aminobutyric acid transporter type 1


Vesicular monoamine transporter 2


Tyrosine kinase B


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erica L. Unger
    • 1
  • Narasimha Hegde
  • James R. Connor
  1. 1.Department of Nutritional SciencesPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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