Cancer-associated mRNAs regulated by the Helix-Loop-Helix motif of human EIF3A
Improper regulation of translation initiation, a vital check-point of protein synthesis in the cell, has been linked to a number of cancers. Overexpression of protein subunits of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 3 (eIF3) has been associated with increased translation of mRNAs involved in cell proliferation. In addition to playing a major role in general translation initiation by serving as a scaffold for the assembly of translation initiation complexes, eIF3 regulates translation of specific cellular mRNAs and viral RNAs. Mutations in the N-terminal Helix-Loop-Helix (HLH) RNA-binding motif of the EIF3A subunit in eIF3 interfere with Hepatitis C Virus Internal Ribosome Entry Site (IRES) mediated translation initiation in vitro. Here we show that the EIF3A HLH motif controls translation of a small set of cellular transcripts enriched in oncogenic mRNAs, including MYC. We also demonstrate that the HLH motif of EIF3A acts specifically on the 5’-UTR of MYC mRNA and modulates the function of EIF4A1 on select transcripts during translation initiation. In Ramos lymphoma cell lines, which are dependent on MYC overexpression, mutations in the HLH motif greatly reduce MYC expression, impede proliferation and sensitize cells to anti-cancer compounds. These results reveal the potential of the EIF3A HLH motif in eIF3 as a promising chemotherapeutic target.