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Keywords:

  • growth regulation;
  • cell cycle;
  • RNA processing;
  • intron;
  • splicing;
  • translational control;
  • autogenous control

Abstract

Thymidylate synthase (TS) is an essential enzyme that catalyzes the formation of thymidylic acid in the de novo biosynthetic pathway and is the target enzyme for a variety of chemotherapeutic agents. The TS gene is expressed at a much higher level in proliferating cells than in quiescent cells. Control is primarily exerted at the posttranscriptional level. Studies with chimeric TS minigenes have shown that regulation of TS mRNA content in growth-stimulated mouse fibroblasts requires the presence of sequences located upstream of the essential promoter elements. In addition, an efficiently spliced intron must be present within the transcript. Neither sequence by itself is sufficient for proper regulation, suggesting that the upstream and downstream sequences may communicate to effect regulation. A possible mechanism by which the upstream sequences influence the efficiency of splicing of TS transcripts in a cell cycle specific manner is described.

Expression of the human TS gene is also controlled at the translational level. The TS enzyme is able to block the translation of its own mRNA by binding to the message in the vicinity of the AUG start codon. The translational block is relieved in the presence of substrates or inhibitors of the enzyme. The autogenous translational regulation of TS mRNA is likely to be responsible for the rapid increase in TS enzyme level that occurs when cells are exposed to certain TS inhibitors. Elucidation of the mechanism by which the translational control is exerted may lead to the design of more effective TS inhibitors.