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J Biol Chem. 2011 Oct 14;286(41):35396-406. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.273060. Epub 2011 Aug 18.

Cellular iron depletion and the mechanisms involved in the iron-dependent regulation of the growth arrest and DNA damage family of genes.

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  • 1Iron Metabolism and Chelation Program, Department of Pathology and Bosch Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.


Iron plays a crucial part in proliferation while iron deficiency results in G(1)/S arrest, DNA damage, and apoptosis. However, the precise role of iron in cell cycle control remains unclear. We showed that iron depletion using the iron chelators, desferrioxamine (DFO), or 2-hydroxy-1-napthylaldehyde isonicotinoyl hydrazone (311), increased the mRNA levels of the growth arrest and DNA damage 45α gene, GADD45α (Darnell, G. and Richardson, D. R. (1999) Blood 94, 781-792). In this study, we examined the effect of iron depletion on up-regulating GADD family members involved in growth control, including cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, and DNA repair, making them therapeutic targets for tumor suppression. We showed the GADD family members were up-regulated by cellular iron depletion. Further, up-regulation of GADD45α after iron deprivation was independent of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α), octamer-1 (Oct-1), p53 and early growth response 1 (Egr1). We then analyzed the regulatory elements responsible for iron depletion-mediated regulation of GADD45α and identified the specific transcription factor/s involved. This region was within -117 bp and -81 bp relative to the start codon where the consensus sequences of three transcription factors are located: the CCAAT-binding factor/nuclear factor-Y (NF-Y), the stabilizing molecule v-MYB and the enhancer, CCAAT enhancer-binding protein (CEBPα). Mutation analysis, shRNA studies, Western blotting, and electrophoretic mobility shift assays led to the identification of NF-Y in the transcriptional up-regulation of GADD45α after iron depletion. Furthermore, like GADD45α, NF-YA was up-regulated after iron chelation and down-regulated by iron supplementation. These results are important for understanding the mechanisms of iron depletion-mediated cell cycle arrest, DNA damage repair, and apoptosis.

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