Molecular regulation of iron proteins

Cellular iron metabolism comprises pathways of iron-protein synthesis and degradation, iron uptake via transferrin receptor (TfR) or release to the extracellular space, as well as iron deposition into ferritin and remobilization from such stores. Different cell types, depending on their rate of proliferation and/or specific functions, show strong variations in these pathways and have to control their iron metabolism to cope with individual functions. Studies with cultured cells have revealed a specific cytoplasmic protein, called 'iron regulatory protein' (IRP) (previously known as IRE-BP or IRF), that plays a key role in iron homoeostasis by regulating coordinately the synthesis of TfR, ferritin, and erythroid 5-aminolevulinate synthase (eALAS). Present in all tissues analysed, IRP is identical with the [4Fe-4S] cluster containing cytoplasmic aconitase. Under conditions of iron chelation, IRP is an apo-protein which binds with high affinity to specific RNA stem-loop elements (IREs) located 5' of the initiation codon in ferritin and eALAS mRNA, and 3' in the untranslated region of TfR mRNA. At 5' sites IRF blocks mRNA translation, whereas 3' it inhibits TfR mRNA degradation. Both effects compensate for low intracellular iron concentrations. Under high iron conditions, IRP is converted to the holo-protein and dissociates from mRNA. This reverses the control towards less iron uptake and more iron storage. Iron can therefore be considered as a feedback regulator of its own metabolism. It has recently become evident that nitric oxide, produced by macrophages and other cell types in response to interferon-gamma, induces the IRE-binding activity of IRF. Moreover measurements of the RNA-binding activity of IRP in tissue extracts may provide valuable information on iron availability


    Author address: Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC), S/Lausanne (Invited paper)


    • GR-KUHN-REVIEW-2008-007

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


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