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Differentiation. 2002 Mar;70(1):10-22.

The emerging roles of translation factor eIF4E in the nucleus.

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Structural Biology Program, Department of Physiology & Biophysics, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York University, One Gustave Levy Place, New York, NY 10029, USA.


The emerging field of nuclear eIF research has yielded many surprises and led to the dissolution of some dogmatic/ideological viewpoints of the place of translation in the regulation of gene expression. Eukaryotic initiation factors (eIFs) are classically defined by their cytoplasmic location and ability to regulate the initiation phase of protein synthesis. For instance, in the cytoplasm, the m7G cap-binding protein eIF4E plays a distinct role in cap-dependent translation initiation. Disruption of eIF4E's regulatory function drastically effects cell growth and may lead to oncogenic transformation. A growing number of studies indicate that many eIFs, including a substantial fraction of eIF4E, are found in the nucleus. Indeed, nuclear eIF4E participates in a variety of important RNA-processing events including the nucleocytoplasmic transport of specific, growth regulatory mRNAs. Although unexpected, it is possible that some eIFs regulate protein synthesis within the nucleus. This review will focus on the novel, nuclear functions of eIF4E and how they contribute to eIF4E's growth-activating and oncogenic properties. Both the cytoplasmic and nuclear functions of eIF4E appear to be dependent on its intrinsic ability to bind to the 5' m7G cap of mRNA. For example, Promyelocytic Leukemia Protein (PML) potentially acts as a negative regulator of nuclear eIF4E function by decreasing eIF4E's affinity for the m7G cap. Therefore, eIF4E protein is flexible enough to utilize a common biochemical activity, such as m7G cap binding, to participate in divergent processes in different cellular compartments.

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