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Mitochondrial involvement in genetically determined transition metal toxicity:I. Iron toxicity

Chemico-Biological Interactions
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.cbi.2006.05.007
  • Mitochondrial Iron
  • Iron Toxicity
  • Genetic Disease
  • Mitochondrial Genetics
  • Iron Metabolism
  • Biology


Abstract Iron that is not specifically chaperoned through its essential functional pathways is damaging to biological systems, in major part by catalyzing the production of reactive oxygen species. Iron serves in several essential roles in the mitochondrion, as an essential cofactor for certain enzymes of electron transport, and through its involvement in the assembly of iron–sulfur clusters and iron–porphyrin (heme) complexes, both processes occurring in the mitochondrion. Therefore, there are mechanisms that deliver iron specifically to mitochondria, although these are not well understood. Under normal circumstances the mitochondrion has levels of stored iron that are higher than other organelles, though lower than in cytosol, while in some disorders of iron metabolism, mitochondrial iron levels exceed those in the cytosol. Under these circumstances of excess iron, protective mechanisms are overwhelmed and mitochondrial damage ensues. This may take the form of acute oxidative stress with structural damage and functional impairment, but also may result in long-term damage to the mitochondrial genome. This review discusses the evidence that mitochondria do indeed accumulate iron in several genetic disorders, and are a direct target for iron toxicity when it is present in excess. We then consider two classes of genetic disorders involving iron and the mitochondrion. The first include defects in genes directly regulating mitochondrial iron metabolism that lead to Friedreich's ataxia and the various sideroblastic anemias, with excessive mitochondrial iron accumulation. Under the second class, we discuss various primary hemochromatoses that lead to direct mitochondrial damage, with reference to mutations in genes encoding HFE, hepcidin, hemojuvelin, transferrin receptor-2, ferroportin, transferrin, and ceruloplasmin.

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