European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Meyerhofstrasse 1, Heidelberg, D-69117, Allemagne, Institut Cochin, Université Paris-Descartes, CNRS, UMR 8104 et Inserm U567, Département Endocrinologie, Métabolisme et Cancer (EMC), 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques, 75014 Paris, France
A small hormonal peptide produced by the liver discovered six years ago allows a better understanding of the sophistication of the regulation of iron metabolism. Hepcidin is indeed the long sought iron-regulatory hormone: to meet the iron needs of the organism it acts at distance by regulating the levels of the cellular iron exporter, ferroportin, thus monitoring the levels of serum iron. The demonstration of the implication of hepcidin in the majority of iron disorders (in particular hemochromatosis and anemia of inflammation) gives rise to numerous studies to allow the development of new therapeutical strategies. The mode of action of hepcidin being now well characterized, the new challenges relate to the regulation of the expression of the hormone by the hepatocytes, thus placing the liver in the heart of iron metabolism.