Alterations in the interaction between iron regulatory proteins and their iron responsive element in normal and Alzheimer's diseased brains.

D. J. Piñero, J. Hu, James Connor

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Iron regulatory proteins (IRPs) are cytoplasmic mRNA binding proteins involved in intracellular regulation of iron homeostasis. IRPs regulate expression of ferritin and transferrin receptor at the mRNA level by interacting with a conserved RNA structure termed the iron-responsive element (IRE). This concordant regulation of transferrin receptors and ferritin is designed so a cell can obtain iron when it is needed, and sequester iron when it is in excess. However, we have reported that iron accumulates in the brain in Alzheimer's disease without a concomitant increase in ferritin. An increase in iron without proper sequestration can increase the vulnerability of cells to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a component of many neurological diseases including Alzheimer's. We hypothesized that alterations in the IRP/IRE interaction could be the site at which iron mismanagement occurs in the Alzheimer's brains. In this report we demonstrate that in normal human brain extracts, the IRP is detected as a double IRE/IRP complex by RNA band shift assay, but in 2 of 6 Alzheimer's brain (AD) extracts examined a single IRE/IRP complex was obtained. Furthermore, the mobility of the single IRE/IRP complex in Alzheimer's brain extracts is decreased relative to the double IRE/IRP complex. Western blot and RNA band super shift assay demonstrate that IRP1 is involved in the formation of the single IRE/IRP complex. In vitro analyses suggest that the stability of the doublet complex and single AD complex are different. The single complex from the AD brain are more stable. A more stable IRE/IRP complex in the AD brain could increase stability of the transferrin receptor mRNA and inhibit ferritin synthesis. At the cellular level, the outcome of this alteration in the molecular regulatory mechanism would be increased iron accumulation without an increase in ferritin; identical to the observation we reported in AD brains. The appearance of the single IRE/IRP complex in Alzheimer's brain extracts is associated with relatively high endogenous ribonuclease activity. We propose that elevated RNase activity is one mechanism by which the iron regulatory system becomes dysfunctional.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)761-776
Number of pages16
JournalCellular and molecular biology (Noisy-le-Grand, France)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2000


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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