The mechanisms responsible for pathological iron deposition in the aging and degenerating mammalian CNS remain poorly understood. The stress protein, HO-1 mediates the degradation of cellular heme to biliverdin/bilirubin, free iron, and CO and is up-regulated in the brains of persons with Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. HO-1 induction in primary astroglial cultures promotes deposition of non-transferrin iron, mitochondrial damage and macroautophagy, and predisposes cocultured neuronal elements to oxidative injury. To gain a better appreciation of the role of glial HO-1 in vivo, we probed for aberrant brain iron deposition using Perls' method and dynamic secondary ion mass spectrometry in novel, conditional GFAP.HMOX1 transgenic mice that selectively over-express human HO-1 in the astrocytic compartment. At 48 weeks, the GFAP.HMOX1 mice exhibited increased deposits of glial iron in hippocampus and other subcortical regions without overt changes in iron-regulatory and iron-binding proteins relative to age-matched wild-type animals. Dynamic secondary ion mass spectrometry revealed abundant FeO− signals in the transgenic, but not wild-type, mouse brain that colocalized to degenerate mitochondria and osmiophilic cytoplasmic inclusions (macroautophagy) documented by TEM. Sustained up-regulation of HO-1 in astrocytes promotes pathological brain iron deposition and oxidative mitochondrial damage characteristic of Alzheimer's disease-affected neural tissues. Curtailment of glial HO-1 hyperactivity may limit iron-mediated cytotoxicity in aging and degenerating neural tissues.