NRF-1: A trans-activator of nuclear-encoded respiratory genes in animal cells

Mark J. Evans, Richard C. Scarpulla*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

360 Scopus citations


The assembly of the respiratory apparatus requires the coordinate expression of a large number of genes from both nuclear and mitochondrial genetic systems. In vertebrate organisms, the molecular mechanisms integrating the activities of these distinct genomic compartments in response to tissue demands for respiratory energy remain unknown. A potential inroad to this problem came with the discovery of nuclear respiratory factor 1 (NRF-1), a novel transcriptional activator defined by mutational and DNA binding analysis of the somatic cytochrome c promoter. Functional NRF-1 sites are now observed in several other recently isolated nuclear genes whose products function in the mitochondria. Among these are genes encoding subunits of the cytochrome c oxidase (subunit VIc) and reductase (ubiquinone-binding protein) complexes. In addition, a functional NRF-1 site resides in the MRP RNA gene encoding the RNA moiety of a ribonucleoprotein endonuclease involved in mitochondrial DNA replication. Synthetic oligomers of these sites competitively displace NRF-1 binding to the cytochrome c promoter. NRF-1-binding activities for each site also have the same thermal lability, copurify chromatographically, and make similar guanosine nucleotide contacts within each recognition sequence. Moreover, NRF-1 recognition in vitro correlates with the ability of each site to stimulate expression in vivo from a truncated cytochrome c promoter. The presence of NRF-1-binding sites in nuclear genes encoding structural components of the mammalian electron transport chain, as well as the mitochondrial DNA replication machinery, suggests a mechanism for coordination of nuclear and mitochondrial genetic systems through the concerted modulation of nuclear genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1023-1034
Number of pages12
JournalGenes and Development
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1990


  • Cytochrome c
  • Cytochrome c oxidase
  • Electron transport chain
  • Gene regulation
  • MRP RNA gene
  • Ubiquinone-binding protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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