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NRF IRES activity is mediated by RNA binding protein JKTBP1 and a 14-nt RNA element.The mRNA of human NF-kappaB repressing factor (NRF) contains a long 5'-untranslated region (UTR) that directs ribosomes to the downstream start codon by a cap-independent mechanism. Comparison of the nucleotide (nt) sequences of human and mouse NRF mRNAs reveals a high degree of identity throughout a fragment of 150 nt proximal to the start codon. Here, we show that this region constitutes a minimal internal ribosome entry segment (IRES) module. Enzymatic RNA structure analysis reveals a secondary structure model of the NRF IRES module. Point mutation analysis of the module determines a short, 14-nt RNA element (nt 640-653) as a mediator of IRES function. Purification of IRES binding cellular proteins and subsequent ESI/MS/MS sequence analysis led to identification of the RNA-binding protein, JKTBP1. EMSA experiments show that JKTBP1 binds upstream to the 14-nt RNA element in the NRF IRES module (nt 579-639). Over-expression of JKTBP1 significantly enhances activity of the NRF IRES module in dicistronic constructs. Moreover, siRNA experiments demonstrate that down-regulation of endogenous JKTBP1 decreases NRF IRES activity and the level of endogenous NRF protein. The data of this study show that JKTBP1 and the 14-nt element act independently to mediate NRF IRES activity.