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The tandem CCCH zinc finger protein tristetraprolin and its relevance to cytokine mRNA turnover and arthritis

Danielle M Carrick1, Wi S Lai2 and Perry J Blackshear123*

Author Affiliations

1 Office of Clinical Research, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA

2 Laboratory of Neurobiology, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA

3 Departments of Medicine and Biochemistry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA

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Arthritis Res Ther 2004, 6:248-264  doi:10.1186/ar1441

Published: 8 October 2004


Tristetraprolin (TTP) is the best-studied member of a small family of three proteins in humans that is characterized by a tandem CCCH zinc finger (TZF) domain with highly conserved sequences and spacing. Although initially discovered as a gene that could be induced rapidly and transiently by the stimulation of fibroblasts with growth factors and mitogens, it is now known that TTP can bind to AU-rich elements in mRNA, leading to the removal of the poly(A) tail from that mRNA and increased rates of mRNA turnover. This activity was discovered after TTP-deficient mice were created and found to have a systemic inflammatory syndrome with severe polyarticular arthritis and autoimmunity, as well as medullary and extramedullary myeloid hyperplasia. The syndrome seemed to be due predominantly to excess circulating tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), resulting from the increased stability of the TNF-α mRNA and subsequent higher rates of secretion of the cytokine. The myeloid hyperplasia might be due in part to increased stability of granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). This review highlights briefly the characteristics of the TTP-deficiency syndrome in mice and its possible genetic modifiers, as well as recent data on the characteristics of the TTP-binding site in the TNF-α and GM-CSF mRNAs. Recent structural data on the characteristics of the complex between RNA and one of the TTP-related proteins are reviewed, and used to model the TTP-RNA binding complex. We review the current knowledge of TTP sequence variants in humans and discuss the possible contributions of the TTP-related proteins in mouse physiology and in human monocytes. The TTP pathway of TNF-α and GM-CSF mRNA degradation is a possible novel target for anti-TNF-α therapies for rheumatoid arthritis, and also for other conditions proven to respond to anti-TNF-α therapy.

AU-rich elements; deadenylation; granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor; mRNA turnover; rheumatoid arthritis; tumor necrosis factor