Choline Supplementation Partially Restores Dendrite Structural Complexity in Developing Iron-Deficient Mouse Hippocampal Neurons

Thomas W. Bastian, William C Von Hohenberg, Olivia R. Kaus, Lorene M. Lanier, Michael K. Georgieff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Fetal-neonatal iron deficiency causes learning/memory deficits that persist after iron repletion. Simplified hippocampal neuron dendrite structure is a key mechanism underlying these long-term impairments. Early life choline supplementation, with postnatal iron repletion, improves learning/memory performance in formerly iron-deficient (ID) rats. Objectives: To understand how choline improves iron deficiency-induced hippocampal dysfunction, we hypothesized that direct choline supplementation of ID hippocampal neurons may restore cellular energy production and dendrite structure. Methods: Embryonic mouse hippocampal neuron cultures were made ID with 9 μM deferoxamine beginning at 3 d in vitro (DIV). At 11 DIV, iron repletion (i.e., deferoxamine removal) was performed on a subset of ID cultures. These neuron cultures and iron-sufficient (IS) control cultures were treated with 30 μM choline (or vehicle) between 11 and 18 DIV. At 18 DIV, the independent and combined effects of iron and choline treatments (2-factor ANOVA) on neuronal dendrite numbers, lengths, and overall complexity and mitochondrial respiration and glycolysis were analyzed. Results: Choline treatment of ID neurons (ID + Cho) significantly increased overall dendrite complexity (150, 160, 180, and 210 μm from the soma) compared with untreated ID neurons to a level of complexity that was no longer significantly different from IS neurons. The average and total length of primary dendrites in ID + Cho neurons were significantly increased by ∼15% compared with ID neurons, indicating choline stimulation of dendrite growth. Measures of mitochondrial respiration, glycolysis, and ATP production rates were not significantly altered in ID + Cho neurons compared with ID neurons, remaining significantly reduced compared with IS neurons. Iron repletion significantly improved mitochondrial respiration, ATP production rates, overall dendrite complexity (100-180 μm from the soma), and dendrite and branch lengths compared with untreated ID neurons. Conclusions: Because choline partially restores dendrite structure in ID neurons without iron repletion, it may have therapeutic potential when iron treatment is not possible or advisable. Choline's mechanism in ID neurons requires further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)747-757
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Nutrition.


  • ATP
  • brain development
  • choline
  • dendrites
  • energy metabolism
  • glycolysis
  • iron deficiency
  • mitochondria
  • neuron development
  • oxidative phosphorylation

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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