Role of endolysosome function in iron metabolism and brain carcinogenesis

Peter W. Halcrow, Miranda L. Lynch, Jonathan D. Geiger, Joyce E. Ohm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Iron, the most abundant metal in human brain, is an essential microelement that regulates numerous cellular mechanisms. Some key physiological roles of iron include oxidative phosphorylation and ATP production, embryonic neuronal development, formation of iron-sulfur clusters, and the regulation of enzymes involved in DNA synthesis and repair. Because of its physiological and pathological importance, iron homeostasis must be tightly regulated by balancing its uptake, transport, and storage. Endosomes and lysosomes (endolysosomes) are acidic organelles known to contain readily releasable stores of various cations including iron and other metals. Increased levels of ferrous (Fe2+) iron can generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) via Fenton chemistry reactions and these increases can damage mitochondria and genomic DNA as well as promote carcinogenesis. Accumulation of iron in the brain has been linked with aging, diet, disease, and cerebral hemorrhage. Further, deregulation of brain iron metabolism has been implicated in carcinogenesis and may be a contributing factor to the increased incidence of brain tumors around the world. Here, we provide insight into mechanisms by which iron accumulation in endolysosomes is altered by pH and lysosome membrane permeabilization. Such events generate excess ROS resulting in mitochondrial DNA damage, fission, and dysfunction, as well as DNA oxidative damage in the nucleus; all of which promote carcinogenesis. A better understanding of the roles that endolysosome iron plays in carcinogenesis may help better inform the development of strategic therapeutic options for cancer treatment and prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-85
Number of pages12
JournalSeminars in Cancer Biology
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Brain
  • Carcinogens
  • Endolysosomes
  • Iron
  • ROS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research


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