Hepcidin production is homeostatically regulated by iron stores, anemia and hypoxia. We evaluated the effect of iron overload and of ineffective erythropoeisis on hepcidin expression in patients with thalassemia major. Liver hepcidin mRNA levels correlated with hemoglobin concentration and inversely correlated with serum transferrin receptor, erythropoietin and non-transferrin-bound iron. They did not correlate with indices of iron load. Urinary hepcidin levels were disproportionably suppressed in regards to iron burden. We conclude that hepcidin expression is regulated mainly by increased erythropoietic activity rather than by iron load and that hepcidin plays a central regulatory role in iron circulation and iron toxicity in patients with thalassemia.