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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Aug 6, 1996; 93(16): 8175–8182.

Molecular control of vertebrate iron metabolism: mRNA-based regulatory circuits operated by iron, nitric oxide, and oxidative stress.


As an essential nutrient and a potential toxin, iron poses an exquisite regulatory problem in biology and medicine. At the cellular level, the basic molecular framework for the regulation of iron uptake, storage, and utilization has been defined. Two cytoplasmic RNA-binding proteins, iron-regulatory protein-1 (IRP-1) and IRP-2, respond to changes in cellular iron availability and coordinate the expression of mRNAs that harbor IRP-binding sites, iron-responsive elements (IREs). Nitric oxide (NO) and oxidative stress in the form of H2O2 also signal to IRPs and thereby influence cellular iron metabolism. The recent discovery of two IRE-regulated mRNAs encoding enzymes of the mitochondrial citric acid cycle may represent the beginnings of elucidating regulatory coupling between iron and energy metabolism. In addition to providing insights into the regulation of iron metabolism and its connections with other cellular pathways, the IRE/IRP system has emerged as a prime example for the understanding of translational regulation and mRNA stability control. Finally, IRP-1 has highlighted an unexpected role for iron sulfur clusters as post-translational regulatory switches.

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