Iron is crucial to many processes in the brain yet the percentages of the major iron-containing species contained therein, and how these percentages change during development, have not been reliably determined. To do this, C57BL/6 mice were enriched in 57Fe and their brains were examined by Mössbauer, EPR, and electronic absorption spectroscopy; Fe concentrations were evaluated using ICP-MS. Excluding the contribution of residual blood hemoglobin, the three major categories of brain Fe included ferritin (an iron storage protein), mitochondrial iron (consisting primarily of Fe/S clusters and hemes), and mononuclear nonheme high-spin (NHHS) FeII and FeIII species. Brains from prenatal and one-week old mice were dominated by ferritin and were deficient in mitochondrial Fe. During the next few weeks of life, the brain grew and experienced a burst of mitochondriogenesis. Overall brain Fe concentration and the concentration of ferritin declined during this burst phase, suggesting that the rate of Fe incorporation was insufficient to accommodate these changes. The slow rate of Fe import and export to/from the brain, relative to other organs, was verified by an isotopic labeling study. Iron levels and ferritin stores replenished in young adult mice. NHHS FeII species were observed in substantial levels in brains of several ages. A stable free-radical species that increased with age was observed by EPR spectroscopy. Brains from mice raised on an Fe-deficient diet showed depleted ferritin iron but normal mitochondrial iron levels.
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