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Iron Deficiency and Iron Excess Differently Affect Dendritic Architecture of Pyramidal Neurons in the Hippocampus of Piglets.



Both iron deficiency and overload may adversely affect neurodevelopment.


The study assessed how changes in early-life iron status affect iron homeostasis and cytoarchitecture of hippocampal neurons in a piglet model.


On postnatal day (PD) 1, 30 Hampshire × Yorkshire crossbreed piglets (n = 15/sex) were stratified by sex and litter and randomly assigned to experimental groups receiving low (L-Fe), adequate (A-Fe), or high (H-Fe) levels of iron supplement during the pre- (PD1-21) and postweaning periods (PD22-35). Pigs in the L-Fe, A-Fe, and H-Fe groups orally received 0, 1, and 30 mg Fe · kg weight-1 · d-1 preweaning and were fed a diet containing 30, 125, and 1000 mg Fe/kg postweaning, respectively. Heme indexes were analyzed weekly, and gene and protein expressions of iron regulatory proteins in duodenal mucosa, liver, and hippocampus were analyzed through qRT-PCR and western blot, respectively, on PD35. Hippocampal neurons stained using the Golgi-Cox method were traced and their dendritic arbors reconstructed in 3-D using Neurolucida. Dendritic complexity was quantified using Sholl and branch order analyses.


Pigs in the L-Fe group developed iron deficiency anemia (hemoglobin = 8.2 g/dL, hematocrit = 20.1%) on PD35 and became stunted during week 5 with lower final body weight than H-Fe group pigs (6.6 compared with 9.6 kg, P < 0.05). In comparison with A-Fe, H-Fe increased hippocampal ferritin expression by 38% and L-Fe decreased its expression by 52% (P < 0.05), suggesting altered hippocampal iron stores. Pigs in the H-Fe group had greater dendritic complexity in CA1/3 pyramidal neurons than L-Fe group pigs as shown by more dendritic intersections with Sholl rings (P ≤ 0.04) and a greater number of dendrites (P ≤ 0.016).


In piglets, the developing hippocampus is susceptible to perturbations by dietary iron, with deficiency and overload differentially affecting dendritic arborization.

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