Translation and the stability of mRNAs encoding the transferrin receptor and c-fos

David M. Koeller, Jill A. Horowitz, John L. Casey, Richard D. Klausner, Joe B. Harford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Turnover of the full-length human transferrin receptor (TfR) mRNA is regulated by iron, and this regulation is mediated by the transcript's 3′ untranslated region. Alterations in the sequence of the TfR mRNA regulatory region have been identified that render the mRNA unregulated by iron and intrinsically unstable. When cells expressing this unstable mRNA are treated with inhibitors of protein synthesis (cycloheximide or puromycin), the steady-state level of the encoded human TfR mRNA is increased due to a stabilization of the transcript. A similar set of observations has been made using a chimeric mRNA in which the rapid turnover determinant of the TfR mRNA is replaced by the (A+U)-rich region from the 3′ untranslated region of c-fos mRNA. To distinguish between a labile protein participant in the degradation of these mRNAs and a requirement for their translation per se, we introduced a ferritin iron-responsive element into the 5′ untranslated region of each of these mRNAs. The presence of the 5′ iron-responsive element allowed us to use iron availability to alter the translation of the mRNAs in question without global effects on cellular protein synthesis. Although specific translation of these mRNAs could be inhibited by iron chelation to a degree comparable to that seen with cycloheximide (≈95% inhibition), no effects on mRNA turnover were observed. These data support a model in which a trans-acting labile protein is necessary for the turnover of these mRNAs rather than there being a requirement for the translation of the mRNAs themselves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7778-7782
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number17
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Cycloheximide
  • Ferritin
  • Iron
  • Protein synthesis
  • Puromycin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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