The struggle for iron: Gastrointestinal microbes modulate the host immune response during infection

Troy A. Markel, Paul R. Crisostomo, Meijing Wang, Christine M. Herring, Kirstan K. Meldrum, Keith D. Lillemoe, Daniel R. Meldrum

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

42 Scopus citations


The gastrointestinal track is one source of potential bacterial entry into the host, and the local immune system at the mucosal border is paramount in establishing host immune tolerance and the immune response to invading organisms. Macrophages use iron for production of hydroxy-radical and superoxide reactions, which are necessary for microbial killing. Presumably, as a survival strategy, bacteria, which also require iron for survival, have adapted the ability to sequester iron from the host, thereby limiting the availability to macrophages. As current modes of antimicrobial therapy are evolving, examination of nontraditional therapies is emerging. One such potential therapy involves altering the bacterial micronutrient iron concentration. Necrotizing enterocolitis is a clinical condition where such a strategy makes intuitive sense. This review will describe the immune response to gastrointestinal infection, the mechanisms that the gastrointestinal system uses to absorb intraluminal iron, and the critical role iron plays in the infectious process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)393-400
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Leukocyte Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2007



  • Absorption
  • Chelation
  • Macrophage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology

Cite this

Markel, T. A., Crisostomo, P. R., Wang, M., Herring, C. M., Meldrum, K. K., Lillemoe, K. D., & Meldrum, D. R. (2007). The struggle for iron: Gastrointestinal microbes modulate the host immune response during infection. Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 81(2), 393-400.