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Biochem J. 2004 Mar 15;378(Pt 3):999-1006.

Characterization of a cis-acting regulatory element in the protein-coding region of human dihydrofolate reductase mRNA.

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Department of Medicine and Pharmacology, Yale Cancer Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Previous studies have shown that human DHFR (dihydrofolate reductase), in addition to its critical role in DNA biosynthesis, functions as an RNA-binding protein. The interaction between DHFR and its own mRNA results in translational repression. In this study, we characterized the cis-acting elements on human DHFR mRNA that are required for the DHFR mRNA-DHFR protein interaction. Using a series of gel-shift and nitrocellulose filter-binding assays, a 164 nt RNA sequence, corresponding to nt 401-564, was identified within the coding region that binds to DHFR protein with an affinity similar to that of full-length DHFR mRNA. To document in vivo biological activity, various DHFR sequences contained within the coding region were cloned on to the 5' end of a luciferase reporter plasmid, and transient transfection experiments were performed using human colon cancer RKO cells. In cells transfected with p644/DHFR:401-564, luciferase activity was decreased by 50% when compared with cells transfected with the p644 plasmid alone. Luciferase mRNA levels were identical under each of these conditions, as determined by Northern-blot analysis. In cells transfected with p644/DHFR:401-564, luciferase activity was restored to almost 100% of control when cells were treated with the antifolate analogue methotrexate or with a short-interfering RNA targeting DHFR mRNA. These findings provide evidence that the DHFR 401-564 sequence is a DHFR-response element. In vitro and in vivo studies further localized this cis-element to an 82 nt sequence corresponding to nt 401-482. This work provides new insights into critical elements that mediate RNA-protein interactions.

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