Posttranscriptional regulation of iron homeostasis involves, among other factors, a reversible conversionf of the Fe-S enzyme cytoplasmic aconitase to a mRNA-binding iron regulatory protein (IRP-1) that lacks an Fe-S cluster. Previous studies have shown that aconitase/IRP-1 may be a target of .NO or peroxynitrite (ONOO-), formed after reaction of .NO with superoxide anion (O2 .-); however, the mechanisms and consequences of such interactions have remained uncertain. In this study, recombinant aconitase/IRP-1 was exposed to SIN-1, whose thermal decomposition releases .NO and O2 .-. Results showed that SIN-1 was able to induce concomitant inactivation of aconitase and activation of IRP-1, attributable to cluster disassembly induced by ONOO-. SIN-1 was used also in lysates of J774A.1 mouse macrophages grown under control conditions, or subjected to iron loading or starvation by treatment with hemin or desferrioxamine, respectively. Three lines of evidence confirmed that ONOO- activated IRP-1 by removing iron from the Fe-S cluster of cytoplasmic aconitase. First, IRP-1 activation was accompanied by iron release and loss of aconitase activity. Second, aconitase activity was recovered by reassembling Fe-S clusters with cysteine and ferrous ammonium sulfate. Third, iron release and IRP-1 activation were observed in lysates from control or iron-loaded macrophages, containing increasing levels of Fe-S clusters, but not in lysates from iron-starved macrophages, in which aconitase had already undergone cluster disassembly and switched to IRP-1. .NO was less efficient than ONOO- in attacking the Fe-S cluster of cytoplasmic aconitase; in fact, SIN-1-dependent iron release and IRP-1 activation were diminished by superoxide dismutase, which scavenged O2 .- before it reacted with .NO to form ONOO-. Under comparable conditions, however, both .NO and ONOO- inactivated an IRP-2 unable to assemble an Fe-S cluster. These results indicate that .NO and ONOO- may activate IRP-1 by attacking the Fe-S cluster of cytoplasmic aconitase, while also inactivating the cluster-deficient IRP-2. Such divergent actions offer clues to explain links between iron homeostasis and reactive nitrogen species in macrophages involved in inflammation or other pathophysiologic conditions.
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