Iron is essential for growth and proliferation of mammalian cells. The maintenance of cellular iron homeostasis is regulated by iron regulatory proteins (IRPs) through binding to iron-responsive elements in target mRNAs and thereby regulating the expression of target genes. Irp1 or Irp2-null mutations are known to reduce the cellular iron level by decreasing transferrin receptor 1 and increasing ferritin. Here, this group reports that Irp1 or Irp2-null mutations also causes downregulation of frataxin and IscU, two of the core components in the iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis machinery. Interestingly, while the activities of some of iron-sulfur cluster-containing enzymes including mitochondrial aconitase and cytosolic xanthine oxidase were not affected by the mutations, the activities of respiratory chain complexes were drastically diminished resulting in mitochondrial dysfunction. Overexpression of human ISCU and frataxin in Irp1 or Irp2-null cells was able to rescue the defects in iron-sulfur cluster biogenesis and mitochondrial quality. Our results strongly suggest that iron regulatory proteins regulate the part of iron sulfur cluster biogenesis tailored specifically for mitochondrial electron transport chain complexes.

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