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Iron Homeostasis in the Liver

  1. Erik R. Anderson1,
  2. Yatrik M. Shah1,2

Published Online: 1 JAN 2013

DOI: 10.1002/cphy.c120016

Comprehensive Physiology

Comprehensive Physiology

How to Cite

Anderson, E. R. and Shah, Y. M. 2013. Iron Homeostasis in the Liver. Comprehensive Physiology. 3:315–330.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

  2. 2

    Department of Internal Medicine Division of Gastroenterology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 JAN 2013


Iron is an essential nutrient that is tightly regulated. A principal function of the liver is the regulation of iron homeostasis. The liver senses changes in systemic iron requirements and can regulate iron concentrations in a robust and rapid manner. The last 10 years have led to the discovery of several regulatory mechanisms in the liver that control the production of iron regulatory genes, storage capacity, and iron mobilization. Dysregulation of these functions leads to an imbalance of iron, which is the primary cause of iron-related disorders. Anemia and iron overload are two of the most prevalent disorders worldwide and affect over a billion people. Several mutations in liver-derived genes have been identified, demonstrating the central role of the liver in iron homeostasis. During conditions of excess iron, the liver increases iron storage and protects other tissues, namely, the heart and pancreas from iron-induced cellular damage. However, a chronic increase in liver iron stores results in excess reactive oxygen species production and liver injury. Excess liver iron is one of the major mechanisms leading to increased steatohepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. © 2013 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 3:315-330, 2013.