Oxygen modulates iron homeostasis by switching iron sensing of NCOA4.

The Journal of biological chemistry (2023-04-15)
Sota Kuno, Kazuhiro Iwai

To ensure proper utilization of iron and avoid its toxicity, cells are equipped with iron-sensing proteins to maintain cellular iron homeostasis. We showed previously that nuclear receptor coactivator 4 (NCOA4), a ferritin-specific autophagy adapter, intricately regulates the fate of ferritin; upon binding to Fe3+, NCOA4 forms insoluble condensates and regulates ferritin autophagy in iron-replete conditions. Here, we demonstrate an additional iron-sensing mechanism of NCOA4. Our results indicate that the insertion of an iron-sulfur (Fe-S) cluster enables preferential recognition of NCOA4 by the HERC2 (HECT and RLD domain containing E3 ubiquitin protein ligase 2) ubiquitin ligase in iron-replete conditions, resulting in degradation by the proteasome and subsequent inhibition of ferritinophagy. We also found that both condensation and ubiquitin-mediated degradation of NCOA4 can occur in the same cell, and the cellular oxygen tension determines the selection of these pathways. Fe-S cluster-mediated degradation of NCOA4 is enhanced under hypoxia, whereas NCOA4 forms condensates and degrades ferritin at higher oxygen levels. Considering the involvement of iron in oxygen handling, our findings demonstrate that the NCOA4-ferritin axis is another layer of cellular iron regulation in response to oxygen levels.

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