Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Iron is critical for life but toxic in excess because of iron-catalysed formation of pro-oxidants that cause tissue damage in a range of disorders. The Nrf2 transcription factor orchestrates cell-intrinsic protective antioxidant responses, and the peptide hormone hepcidin maintains systemic iron homeostasis, but is pathophysiologically decreased in haemochromatosis and beta-thalassaemia. Here, we show that Nrf2 is activated by iron-induced, mitochondria-derived pro-oxidants and drives Bmp6 expression in liver sinusoid endothelial cells, which in turn increases hepcidin synthesis by neighbouring hepatocytes. In Nrf2 knockout mice, the Bmp6-hepcidin response to oral and parenteral iron is impaired and iron accumulation and hepatic damage are increased. Pharmacological activation of Nrf2 stimulates the Bmp6-hepcidin axis, improving iron homeostasis in haemochromatosis and counteracting the inhibition of Bmp6 by erythroferrone in beta-thalassaemia. We propose that Nrf2 links cellular sensing of excess toxic iron to control of systemic iron homeostasis and antioxidant responses, and may be a therapeutic target for iron-associated disorders.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Metab

Publication Date





519 - 531


Bone Morphogenetic Protein 6, Hepcidins, Homeostasis, Humans, Iron, NF-E2-Related Factor 2, beta-Thalassemia