Incrimination of heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein E1 (hnRNP-E1) as a candidate sensor of physiological folate deficiency

Ying Sheng Tang, Rehana A. Khan, Yonghua Zhang, Suhong Xiao, Mu Wang, Deborah K. Hansen, Hiremagalur N. Jayaram, Aśok C. Antony*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


The mechanism underlying the sensing of varying degrees of physiological folate deficiency, prior to adaptive optimization of cellular folate uptake through the translational up-regulation of folate receptors (FR) is unclear. Because homocysteine, which accumulates intracellularly during folate deficiency, stimulated interactions between heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein E1 (hnRNP-E1) and an 18-base FR-α mRNAcis-element that led to increased FR biosynthesis and net up-regulation of FR at cell surfaces, hnRNP-E1 was a plausible candidate sensor of folate deficiency. Accordingly, using purified components, we evaluated the physiological basis whereby L-homocysteine triggered these RNA-protein interactions to stimulate FR biosynthesis. L-Homocysteine induced a concentration-dependent increase in RNA-protein binding affinity throughout the range of physiological folate deficiency, which correlated with a proportionate increase in translation of FR in vitro and in cultured human cells. Targeted reduction of newly synthesized hnRNP-E1 proteins by siRNA to hnRNP-E1 mRNA reduced both constitutive and L-homocysteine-induced rates of FR biosynthesis. Furthermore, L-homocysteine covalently bound hnRNP-E1 via multiple protein-cysteine-S-S-homocysteine mixed disulfide bonds within K-homology domains known to interact with mRNA. These data suggest that a concentration-dependent, sequential disruption of critical cysteine-S-S-cysteine bonds by covalently bound L-homocysteine progressively unmasks an underlying RNA-binding pocket in hnRNP-E1 to optimize interaction with FR-α mRNA cis-element preparatory to FR up-regulation. Collectively, such data incriminate hnRNP-E1 as a physiologically relevant, sensitive, cellular sensor of folate deficiency. Because diverse mammalian and viral mRNAs also interact with this RNA-binding domain with functional consequences to their protein expression, homocysteinylated hnRNP-E1 also appears well positioned to orchestrate a novel, nutrition-sensitive (homocysteine-responsive), posttranscriptional RNA operon in folate-deficient cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39100-39115
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number45
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes

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