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RNA. 1997 Oct;3(10):1159-72.

Probing the structure of the regulatory region of human transferrin receptor messenger RNA and its interaction with iron regulatory protein-1.

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UPR 9002 du CNRS, Institut de Biologie Mol├ęculaire et Cellulaire, Strasbourg, France.


A portion of the 3'UTR of the human transferrin receptor mRNA mediates iron-dependent regulation of mRNA stability. The minimal RNA regulatory region contains three conserved hairpins, so-called iron responsive elements (IREs), that are recognized specifically by iron regulatory proteins (IRPs). The structure of this regulatory region and its complex with IRP-1 was probed using a combination of enzymes and chemicals. The data support the existence of an intrinsic IRE loop structure that is constrained by an internal C-G base pair. This particular structure is one of the determinants required for optimal IRP binding. IRP-1 covers one helical turn of the IRE and protects conserved residues in each of the three IREs: the bulged cytosine and nucleotides in the hairpin loops. Two essential IRP-phosphate contacts were identified by ethylation interference. Three-dimensional modeling of one IRE reveals that IRP-1 contacts several bases and the ribose-phosphate backbone located on one face in the deep groove, but contacts also exist with the shallow groove. A conformational change of the IRE loop mediated by IRP-1 binding was visualized by Pb2+-catalyzed hydrolysis. This effect is dependent on the loop structure and on the nature of the closing base pair. Within the regulatory region of transferrin receptor mRNA, IRP-1 induces reactivity changes in a U-rich hairpin loop that requires the presence of the stem-loop structure located just downstream the endonucleolytic cleavage site identified by Binder et al. (Binder R et al. 1994, EMBO J 13:1969-1980). These results provide indications of the mechanism by which IRP-1 stabilizes the transferrin receptor mRNA under iron depletion conditions.

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