The role of thymidylate synthase in cellular regulation

Adv Enzyme Regul. 1996;36:143-63. doi: 10.1016/0065-2571(95)00004-6.


Thymidylate synthase plays a central role in the biosynthesis of thymidylate, an essential precursor for DNA biosynthesis. In addition to its role in catalysis and cellular metabolism, studies from our laboratory have shown that thymidylate synthase functions as an RNA binding protein. Specifically, thymidylate synthase binds with high affinity to its own mRNA resulting in translational repression. An extensive series of experiments have now been performed to elucidate the molecular elements underlying the interaction between thymidylate synthase and its own mRNA. These studies have shed new light into the critical nucleotide sequences and/or secondary structure that are important for protein recognition. As well, studies to define the domains on the protein essential for RNA binding are currently underway. In addition to the characterization of the cis- and trans-acting elements underlying the interaction between thymidylate synthase and its own mRNA, we have recently shown that thymidylate synthase has the capacity to specifically bind in vitro and in vivo to other cellular RNA species. In this regard, thymidylate synthase interacts with the mRNAs of the c-myc onocogene and the p53 tumor suppressor gene. These two genes have been shown to play critical roles in cell cycle control, DNA biosynthesis, and apoptosis. In vitro studies reveal that the interaction of TS with these cell-cycle related mRNAs results in their translational repression. While the biological significance of these cellular RNA/TS protein interactions remains to be defined, these studies suggest a potential role for TS as a mediator in the coordinate regulation of several critical aspects of cellular metabolism.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Blotting, Southern
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colonic Neoplasms / therapy
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Fluorodeoxyuridylate / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Humans
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Precipitin Tests
  • Protein Biosynthesis / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA-Binding Proteins / pharmacology
  • Tetrahydrofolates / metabolism
  • Thymidylate Synthase / metabolism*
  • Thymidylate Synthase / pharmacology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Uridine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Uridine / pharmacology
  • Uridine Monophosphate / pharmacology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA-Binding Proteins
  • Tetrahydrofolates
  • 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolic acid
  • Fluorodeoxyuridylate
  • 5-fluorouridine
  • Uridine Monophosphate
  • Thymidylate Synthase
  • Uridine