Metabolic enzymes that bind RNA: yet another level of cellular regulatory network?
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Several enzymes that were originally characterized to have one defined function in intermediatory metabolism are now shown to participate in a number of other cellular processes. Multifunctional proteins may be crucial for building of the highly complex networks that maintain the function and structure in the eukaryotic cell possessing a relatively low number of protein-encoding genes. One facet of this phenomenon, on which I will focus in this review, is the interaction of metabolic enzymes with RNA. The list of such enzymes known to be associated with RNA is constantly expanding, but the most intriguing question remains unanswered: are the metabolic enzyme-RNA interactions relevant in the regulation of cell metabolism? It has been proposed that metabolic RNA-binding enzymes participate in general regulatory circuits linking a metabolic function to a regulatory mechanism, similar to the situation of the metabolic enzyme aconitase, which also functions as iron-responsive RNA-binding regulatory element. However, some authors have cautioned that some of such enzymes may merely represent "molecular fossils" of the transition from an RNA to a protein world and that the RNA-binding properties may not have a functional significance. Here I will describe enzymes that have been shown to interact with RNA (in several cases a newly discovered RNA-binding protein has been identified as a well-known metabolic enzyme) and particularly point out those whose ability to interact with RNA seems to have a proven physiological significance. I will also try to depict the molecular switch between an enzyme's metabolic and regulatory functions in cases where such a mechanism has been elucidated. For most of these enzymes relations between their enzymatic functions and RNA metabolism are unclear or seem not to exist. All these enzymes are ancient, as judged by their wide distribution, and participate in fundamental biochemical pathways.
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