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EMBO J. 2000 Nov 1;19(21):5692-700.

Distinct iron-sulfur cluster assembly complexes exist in the cytosol and mitochondria of human cells.

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National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Cell Biology and Metabolism Branch, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Iron-sulfur (Fe-S) clusters are cofactors found in many proteins that have important redox, catalytic or regulatory functions. In mammalian cells, almost all known Fe-S proteins are found in the mitochondria, but at least one is found in the cytosol. Here we report cloning of the human homologs to IscU and NifU, iron-binding proteins that play a critical role in Fe-S cluster assembly in bacteria. In human cells, alternative splicing of a common pre-mRNA results in synthesis of two proteins that differ at the N-terminus and localize either to the cytosol (IscU1) or to the mitochondria (IscU2). Biochemical analyses demonstrate that IscU proteins specifically associate with IscS, a cysteine desulfurase that is proposed to sequester inorganic sulfur for Fe-S cluster assembly. Protein complexes containing IscU and IscS can be found in the mitochondria as well as in the cytosol, implying that Fe-S cluster assembly takes place in multiple subcellular compartments in mammalian cells. The possible roles of the IscU proteins in mammalian cells and the potential implications of compartmentalization of Fe-S cluster assembly are discussed.

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