Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1992 Aug;89(16):7536-40
Cell Biology and Metabolism Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.
Several mechanisms of posttranscriptional gene regulation are involved in regulation of the expression of essential proteins of iron metabolism. Coordinate regulation of ferritin and transferrin receptor expression is produced by binding of a cytosolic protein, the iron-responsive element binding protein (IRE-BP) to specific stem-loop structures present in target RNAs. The affinity of this protein for its cognate RNA is regulated by the cell in response to changes in iron availability. The IRE-BP demonstrates a striking level of amino acid sequence identity to the iron-sulfur (Fe-S) protein mitochondrial aconitase. Moreover, the recombinant IRE-BP has aconitase function. The lability of the Fe-S cluster in mitochondrial aconitase has led us to propose that the mechanism by which iron levels are sensed by the IRE-BP involves changes in an Fe-S cluster in the IRE-BP. In this study, we demonstrate that procedures aimed at altering the IRE-BP Fe-S cluster in vitro reciprocally alter the RNA binding and aconitase activity of the IRE-BP. The changes in the RNA binding of the protein produced in vitro appear to match the previously described alterations of the protein in response to iron availability in the cell. Furthermore, iron manipulation of cells correlates with the activation or inactivation of the IRE-BP aconitase activity. The results are consistent with a model for the posttranslational regulation of the IRE-BP in which the Fe-S cluster is altered in response to the availability of intracellular iron and this, in turn, regulates the RNA-binding activity.