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Science. 1988 May 13;240(4854):924-8.

Iron-responsive elements: regulatory RNA sequences that control mRNA levels and translation.

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  • 1Cell Biology and Metabolism Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, MD 20892.


The biosynthetic rates for both the transferrin receptor (TfR) and ferritin are regulated by iron. An iron-responsive element (IRE) in the 5' untranslated portion of the ferritin messenger RNA (mRNA) mediates iron-dependent control of its translation. In this report the 3' untranslated region of the mRNA for the human TfR was shown to be necessary and sufficient for iron-dependent control of mRNA levels. Deletion studies identified a 678-nucleotide fragment of the TfR complementary DNA that is critical for this iron regulation. Five potential stem-loops that resemble the ferritin IRE are contained within the region critical for TfR regulation. Each of two of the five TfR elements was independently inserted into the 5' untranslated region of an indicator gene transcript. In this location they conferred iron regulation of translation. Thus, an mRNA element has been implicated in the mediation of distinct regulatory phenomena dependent on the context of the element within the transcript.

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