Interplay of Ferritin Accumulation and Ferroportin Loss in Ageing Brain: Implication for Protein Aggregation in Down Syndrome Dementia, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's Diseases.
Iron accumulates in the ageing brain and in brains with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD), Huntington's disease (HD), and Down syndrome (DS) dementia. However, the mechanisms of iron deposition and regional selectivity in the brain are ill-understood. The identification of several proteins that are involved in iron homeostasis, transport, and regulation suggests avenues to explore their function in neurodegenerative diseases. To uncover the molecular mechanisms underlying this association, we investigated the distribution and expression of these key iron proteins in brain tissues of patients with AD, DS, PD, and compared them with age-matched controls. Ferritin is an iron storage protein that is deposited in senile plaques in the AD and DS brain, as well as in neuromelanin-containing neurons in the Lewy bodies in PD brain. The transporter of ferrous iron, Divalent metal protein 1 (DMT1), was observed solely in the capillary endothelium and in astrocytes close to the ventricles with unchanged expression in PD. The principal iron transporter, ferroportin, is strikingly reduced in the AD brain compared to age-matched controls. Extensive blood vessel damage in the basal ganglia and deposition of punctate ferritin heavy chain (FTH) and hepcidin were found in the caudate and putamen within striosomes/matrix in both PD and DS brains. We suggest that downregulation of ferroportin could be a key reason for iron mismanagement through disruption of cellular entry and exit pathways of the endothelium. Membrane damage and subsequent impairment of ferroportin and hepcidin causes oxidative stress that contributes to neurodegeneration seen in DS, AD, and in PD subjects. We further propose that a lack of ferritin contributes to neurodegeneration as a consequence of failure to export toxic metals from the cortex in AD/DS and from the substantia nigra and caudate/putamen in PD brain.