Abstract Elucidation of the molecular pathways of iron transport through cells and its control is leading to an understanding of genetic iron loading conditions. The general phenotype of haemochromatosis is iron accumulation in liver parenchymal cells, a raised serum transferrin saturation and ferritin concentration. Four types have been identified: type 1 is the common form and is an autosomal recessive disorder of low penetrance strongly associated with mutations in the HFE gene on chromosome 6(p21.3); type 2 (juvenile haemochromatosis) is autosomal recessive, of high penetrance with causative mutations identified in the HFE2 gene on chromosome 1 (q21) and the HAMP gene on chromosome 19 (q13); type 3 is also autosomal recessive with mutations in the TfR2 gene on chromosome 3 (7q22); type 4 is an autosomal dominant condition with heterozygous mutations in the ferroportin 1 gene. In type 4, iron accumulates in both parenchymal and reticuloendothelial cells and the transferrin saturation may be normal. There are also inherited neurodegenerative conditions associated with iron accumulation. The current research challenges include understanding the central role of the HAMP gene (hepcidin) in controlling iron absorption and the reasons for the variable penetrance in HFE type 1.