The translational regulator eIF3a: The tricky eIF3 subunit!

Federica Saletta, Yohan Suryo Rahmanto, Des R. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Regulation of gene expression is a fundamental step in cellular physiology as abnormalities in this process may lead to de-regulated growth and cancer. Translation of mRNA is mainly regulated at the rate-limiting initiation step, where many eukaryotic initiation factors (eIFs) are involved. The largest and most complex initiation factor is eIF3 which plays a role in translational regulation, cell growth and cancer. The largest subunit of eIF3 is eIF3a, although it is not required for the general function of eIF3 in translation initiation. However, eIF3a may play a role as a regulator of a subset of mRNAs and has been demonstrated to regulate the expression of p27kip1, tyrosinated ?-tubulin and ribonucleotide reductase M2 subunit. These molecules have a pivotal role in the regulation of the cell cycle. Moreover, the eIF3a mRNA is ubiquitously expressed in all tissues at different levels and is found elevated in a number of cancer types. eIF3a can modulate the cell cycle and may be a translational regulator for proteins important for entrance into S phase. The expression of eIF3a is decreased in differentiated cells in culture and the suppression of eIF3a expression can reverse the malignant phenotype and change the sensitivity of cells to cell cycle modulators. However, the role of eIF3a in cancer is still unclear. In fact, some studies have identified eIF3a to be involved in cancer development, while other results indicate that it could provide protection against evolution into higher malignancy. Together, these findings highlight the "tricky" and interesting nature of eIF3a.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-286
Number of pages12
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Reviews on Cancer
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Cell cycle
  • Differentiation
  • Eukaryotic initiation factors
  • Translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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