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Mol Cell Biol. 1992 May;12(5):1959-66.

Position is the critical determinant for function of iron-responsive elements as translational regulators.

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European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany.


At least two groups of eukaryotic mRNAs (ferritin and erythroid 5-aminolevulinate synthase) are translationally regulated via iron-responsive elements (IREs) located in a conserved position within the 5' untranslated regions of their mRNAs. We establish that the spacing between the 5' terminus of an mRNA and the IRE determines the potential of the IRE to mediate iron-dependent translational repression. The length of the RNA spacer rather than its nucleotide sequence or predicted secondary structure is shown to be the primary determinant of IRE function. When the position of the IRE is preserved, sequences flanking the IRE in natural ferritin mRNA can be replaced by altered flanking sequences without affecting the regulatory function of the IRE in vivo. These results define position as a critical cis requirement for IRE function in vivo and imply the potential to utilize transcription start site selection to modulate the function of this translational regulator.

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