Integrated role of desferrioxamine and phenserine targeted to an iron-responsive element in the APP-mRNA 5′-untranslated region

Amanda Venti, Tony Giordano, Paul Eder, Ashley I. Bush, Debomoy K. Lahiri, Nigel H. Greig, Jack T. Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Scopus citations


The Alzheimer's amyloid precursor protein (APP) is the metalloprotein that is cleaved to generate the pathogenic Aβ peptide. We showed that iron closely regulated the expression of APP by 5′-untranslated region (5′-UTR) sequences in APP mRNA. Iron modulated APP holoprotein expression by a pathway similar to iron control of the translation of the ferritin-L and -H mRNAs by iron-responsive elements in their 5′-UTRs. APP gene transcription is also responsive to copper deficit where the Menkes protein depleted fibroblasts of copper to suppress transcription of APP through metal regulatory and copper regulatory sequences upstream of the APP 5′ cap site. APP is a copperzinc metalloprotein and chelation of Fe3+ by desferrioxamine and Cu2+ by clioquinol appeared to provide effective therapy for the treatment of AD in limited patient studies. We have introduced an RNA-based screen for small APP 5′-UTR binding molecules to identify leads that limit APP translation (but not APLP-1 and APLP-2) and amyloid Aβ peptide production. A library of 1200 drugs was screened to identify lead drugs that limited APP 5′-UTR-directed translation of a reporter gene. The efficacy of these leads was confirmed for specificity in a cell-based secondary assay to measure the steady-state levels of APP holoprotein relative to APLP-1/APLP-2 by Western blotting. Several chelators were identified among the APP 5′-UTR directed leads consistent with the presence of an IRE stem-loop in front of the start codon of the APP transcript. The APP 5′-UTR- directed drugs-desferrioxamine (Fe3+ chelator), tetrathiomolybdate (Cu2+ chelator), and dimercaptopropanol (Pb2+ and Hg 2+ chelator)-each suppressed APP holoprotein expression (and lowered Aβ peptide secretion). The novel anti-cholinesterase phenserine also provided "proof of concept" for our strategy to target the APP 5′-UTR sequence to identify "anti-amyloid" drugs. We further defined the interaction between iron chelation and phenserine action to control APP 5′-UTR-directed translation in neuroblastoma (SY5Y) transfectants. Phenserine was most efficient to block translation under conditions of intracellular iron chelation with desferrioxamine suggesting that this anticholinesterase operated through an iron (metal)]-dependent pathway at the APP 5′-UTR site.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-48
Number of pages15
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - 2004


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyloid precursor protein (APP)
  • Iron-responsive elements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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