Iron lies at the center of a battle for nutritional resource between higher organisms and their microbial pathogens. The iron status of the human host affects the pathogenicity of numerous infections including malaria, HIV-1, and tuberculosis. Hepcidin, an antimicrobial-like peptide hormone, has emerged as the master regulator of iron metabolism. Hepcidin controls the absorption of dietary iron and the distribution of iron among cell types in the body, and its synthesis is regulated by both iron and innate immunity. We describe how hepcidin integrates signals from diverse physiological inputs, forming a key molecular bridge between iron trafficking and response to infection.
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