Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The iron-regulatory hormone hepcidin is induced early in infection, causing iron sequestration in macrophages and decreased plasma iron; this is proposed to limit the replication of extracellular microbes, but could also promote infection with macrophage-tropic pathogens. The mechanisms by which hepcidin and hypoferremia modulate host defense, and the spectrum of microbes affected, are poorly understood. Using mouse models, we show that hepcidin was selectively protective against siderophilic extracellular pathogens (Yersinia enterocolitica O9) by controlling non-transferrin-bound iron (NTBI) rather than iron-transferrin concentration. NTBI promoted the rapid growth of siderophilic but not nonsiderophilic bacteria in mice with either genetic or iatrogenic iron overload and in human plasma. Hepcidin or iron loading did not affect other key components of innate immunity, did not indiscriminately promote intracellular infections (Mycobacterium tuberculosis), and had no effect on extracellular nonsiderophilic Y enterocolitica O8 or Staphylococcus aureus Hepcidin analogs may be useful for treatment of siderophilic infections.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





245 - 257


Animals, Binding, Competitive, Catheter-Related Infections, Disease Models, Animal, Disease Resistance, Gene Expression, Hemochromatosis, Hepcidins, Humans, Iron, Iron Overload, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Knockout, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Oligopeptides, Protein Binding, Staphylococcal Infections, Staphylococcus aureus, Survival Analysis, Transferrin, Yersinia enterocolitica