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2011 | 1 | 66-75

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The role of iron regulatory proteins in the control of iron metabolism in mammals

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The iron regulatory proteins (IRP1 and IRP2) are two cytoplasmic RNA-binding proteins involved in the mechanisms that control iron metabolism in mammalian cells. They modulate the expression of iron-related proteins at a post-transcriptional level by binding to specific iron regulatory elements (IREs) on their mRNAs. IRP-IRE interaction can block protein synthesis or stabilize the mRNA. At low intracellular iron concentration, IRPs bind to the IRE of ferritin or ferroportin mRNAs and block their translation. Direct interactions between IRPs and several IRE motifs stabilize transferrin receptor mRNA. The converse regulation of ferritin and TfR synthesis, being a consequence of the lack of binding of IRPs to IRE, occurs in cells with high iron level. Thus, IRP-mediated regulation rapidly restores the physiological level of iron during its deficiency as well as excess. The role of IRPs in maintaining the intracelluar iron balance has been relatively well characterized in numerous types of mammalian cells. However, the importance of IRPs in the regulation of systemic iron metabolism in mammals, particularly, in signaling between the cells which play major roles in body iron metabolism, such as duodenal enterocytes, reticuloendothelial macrophages, hepatocytes, and bone marrow precursors of red blood cells, is only beginning to be investigated. Several studies have shown that IRP2 is a predominant regulator of iron homeostasis in mice housed under standard conditions, thus limiting the impact of IRP1 on this metabolic pathway. Although IRP1-deficient mice do not display a strong pathological phenotype, a deletion of both IRPs is embryonic lethal. In addition, in vitro and in vivo studies have reported that nitric oxide (NO) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), which are produced during inflammation, are potent IRP1 regulators that mediate the disassembly of Fe-S cluster of IRP1. There is also an increasing evidence that NO and superoxide anion (O2 @!) may induce a strong down-regulation of IRP1 at the protein level and thus have an impact on the binding of IRP1 to IREs. All these data suggest a predominant role of IRP1 in the regulation of iron homeostasis under specific physiopathological conditions.








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P. Lipinski Department of Molecular Biology, Institute of Genetics and Animal Breeding Polish Academy of Sciences, Jastrzebiec, Poland


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