Perinatal iron deficiency alters the neurochemical profile of the developing rat hippocampus

Raghavendra Rao, Ivan Tkac, Elise L. Townsend, Rolf Gruetter, Michael K. Georgieff

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Cognitive deficits in human infants at risk for gestationally acquired perinatal iron deficiency suggest involvement of the developing hippocampus. To understand the plausible biological explanations for hippocampal injury in perinatal iron deficiency, a neurochemical profile of 16 metabolites in the iron-deficient rat hippocampus was evaluated longitudinally by 1H NMR spectroscopy at 9.4 T. Metabolites were quantified from an 11-24 μL volume centered in the hippocampus in 18 iron-deficient and 16 iron-sufficient rats on postnatal day (PD) 7, PD10, PD14, PD21 and PD28. Perinatal iron deficiency was induced by feeding the pregnant dam an iron-deficient diet from gestational d 3 to PD7. The brain iron concentration of the iron-deficient group was 60% lower on PD7 and 19% lower on PD28 (P < 0.001 each). The concentration of 12 of the 16 measured metabolites changed over time between PD7 and PD28 in both groups (P < 0.001 each). Compared with the iron-sufficient group, phosphocreatine, glutamate, N-acetylaspartate, aspartate, γ-aminobutyric acid, phosphorylethanolamine and taurine concentrations, and the phosphocreatine/creatine ratio were elevated in the iron-deficient group (P < 0.02 each). These neurochemical alterations suggest persistent changes in resting energy status, neurotransmission and myelination in perinatal iron deficiency. An altered neurochemical profile of the developing hippocampus may underlie some of the cognitive deficits observed in human infants with perinatal iron deficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3215-3221
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2003


  • Hippocampus
  • Iron
  • NMR spectroscopy
  • Neurochemical profile
  • Perinatal iron deficiency


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