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Blood. 2000 Jun 1;95(11):3280-8.

Translational pathophysiology: a novel molecular mechanism of human disease.

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Department of Hematology, University of Pavia Medical School and Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS) Policlinico S. Matteo, Pavia, Italy.


In higher eukaryotes, the expression of about 1 gene in 10 is strongly regulated at the level of messenger RNA (mRNA) translation into protein. Negative regulatory effects are often mediated by the 5'-untranslated region (5'-UTR) and rely on the fact that the 40S ribosomal subunit first binds to the cap structure at the 5'-end of mRNA and then scans for the first AUG codon. Self-complementary sequences can form stable stem-loop structures that interfere with the assembly of the preinitiation complex and/or ribosomal scanning. These stem loops can be further stabilized by the interaction with RNA-binding proteins, as in the case of ferritin. The presence of AUG codons located upstream of the physiological start site can inhibit translation by causing premature initiation and thereby preventing the ribosome from reaching the physiological start codon, as in the case of thrombopoietin (TPO). Recently, mutations that cause disease through increased or decreased efficiency of mRNA translation have been discovered, defining translational pathophysiology as a novel mechanism of human disease. Hereditary hyperferritinemia/cataract syndrome arises from various point mutations or deletions within a protein-binding sequence in the 5'-UTR of the L-ferritin mRNA. Each unique mutation confers a characteristic degree of hyperferritinemia and severity of cataract in affected individuals. Hereditary thrombocythemia (sometimes called familial essential thrombocythemia or familial thrombocytosis) can be caused by mutations in upstream AUG codons in the 5'-UTR of the TPO mRNA that normally function as translational repressors. Their inactivation leads to excessive production of TPO and elevated platelet counts. Finally, predisposition to melanoma may originate from mutations that create translational repressors in the 5'-UTR of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor-2A gene.

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