Coordination of cellular iron metabolism by post-transcriptional gene regulation

Maintenance of cellular iron homeostasis demands the coordination of iron uptake, intracellular storage, and utilization. Recent investigations suggest that a single genetic regulatory system orchestrates the expression of proteins with central importance for all three aspects of cellular iron metabolism at the level of mRNA stability and translation. Two components of this regulatory system have been defined: a cis-acting mRNA sequence/structure motif called "iron-responsive element" (IRE) and a specific trans-acting cytoplasmic binding protein, here referred to as "IRE-binding protein" (IRE-BP). As an early event in the regulatory cascade, cellular iron deprivation induces the IRE-binding activity of IRE-BP, whereas binding activity is reduced in iron-replete cells. IRE-BP is highly homologous to the iron-sulphur (Fe-S) protein aconitase which strongly suggests that IRE-BP is an Fe-S protein itself. Control over IRE-BP activity by the cellular iron status is exerted post-translationally and likely involves changes between (4Fe-4S) and (3Fe-4S) states of the postulated IRE-BP Fe-S cluster. In addition, post-translational regulation of IRE-BP activity via heme has been proposed. Subsequent to its activation, IRE-BP binds with high affinity to single IREs contained in the 5' untranslated regions (UTRs) of ferritin and erythroid 5-aminolevulinic acid synthase (eALAS) mRNAs. The binding represses translation of these proteins involved in iron storage and utilization, respectively. In contrast, iron uptake is largely regulated via multiple IREs in the 3' UTR of transferrin receptor (TfR) mRNA. TfR-IREs are required for the iron-sensitive control of TfR mRNA stability. IRE-BP binding stabilizes TfR gene transcripts against as yet undefined ribonucleases. As a result of these regulatory interactions, iron starvation induces the expression of TfR, thereby increasing iron uptake, and represses the synthesis of proteins involved in iron storage and utilization. As cellular iron levels rise, the homeostatic balance is maintained by lowering iron uptake and increasing iron storage in ferritin


    Author address: Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, Epalinges


    • GR-KUHN-REVIEW-2008-006

    Record created on 2008-02-26, modified on 2017-05-12


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