Intracellular iron levels are strictly regulated to support homeostasis and avoid iron-mediated ROS production. Loss of iron-sulfur cluster (ISC) synthesis can increase iron loading and promote cell death by ferroptosis. Iron-responsive element-binding proteins IRP1 and IRP2 posttranscriptionally regulate iron homeostasis. IRP1 binding to target mRNAs is competitively regulated by ISC occupancy. However, IRP2 is principally thought to be regulated at the protein level via E3 ubiquitin ligase FBXL5-mediated degradation. Here, we show that ISC synthesis suppression can activate IRP2 and promote ferroptosis sensitivity via a previously unidentified mechanism. At tissue-level O2 concentrations, ISC deficiency enhances IRP2 binding to target mRNAs independent of IRP1, FBXL5, and changes in IRP2 protein level. Deletion of both IRP1 and IRP2 abolishes the iron-starvation response, preventing its activation by ISC synthesis inhibition. These findings will inform strategies to manipulate ferroptosis sensitivity and help illuminate the mechanism underlying ISC biosynthesis disorders, such as Friedreich's ataxia.
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