Insulin synthesis and cell proliferation are under tight regulation in pancreatic β-cells to maintain glucose homeostasis. Dysfunction in either aspect leads to development of diabetes. PERK (EIF2AK3) loss of function mutations in humans and mice exhibit permanent neonatal diabetes that is characterized by insufficient β-cell mass and reduced proinsulin trafficking and insulin secretion. Unexpectedly, we found that Perk heterozygous mice displayed lower blood glucose levels.
Longitudinal studies were conducted to assess serum glucose and insulin, intracellular insulin synthesis and storage, insulin secretion, and β-cell proliferation in Perk heterozygous mice. In addition, modulation of Perk dosage specifically in β-cells showed that the glucose homeostasis phenotype of Perk heterozygous mice is determined by reduced expression of PERK in the β-cells.
We found that Perk heterozygous mice first exhibited enhanced insulin synthesis and secretion during neonatal and juvenile development followed by enhanced β-cell proliferation and a substantial increase in β-cell mass at the adult stage. These differences are not likely to entail the well-known function of PERK to regulate the ER stress response in cultured cells as several markers for ER stress were not differentially expressed in Perk heterozygous mice.
In addition to the essential functions of PERK in β-cells as revealed by severely diabetic phenotype in humans and mice completely deficient for PERK, reducing Perk gene expression by half showed that intermediate levels of PERK have a profound impact on β-cell functions and glucose homeostasis. These results suggest that an optimal level of PERK expression is necessary to balance several parameters of β-cell function and growth in order to achieve normoglycemia.
Expression of long-lasting synaptic plasticity and long-term memory requires new protein synthesis, which can be repressed by phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor 2α subunit (eIF2α). It was reported previously that eIF2α phosphorylation is elevated in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients and AD model mice. Therefore, we determined whether suppressing eIF2α kinases could alleviate synaptic plasticity and memory deficits in AD model mice. The genetic deletion of the eIF2α kinase PERK prevented enhanced eIF2α phosphorylation, as well as deficits in protein synthesis, synaptic plasticity, and spatial memory in APP/PS1 AD model mice. Similarly, deletion of another eIF2α kinase, GCN2, prevented impairments of synaptic plasticity and spatial memory defects displayed in the APP/PS1 mice. Our findings implicate aberrant eIF2α phosphorylation as a novel molecular mechanism underlying AD-related synaptic pathophysioloy and memory dysfunction and suggest that PERK and GCN2 are potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of individuals with AD.
PERK (EIF2AK3) was originally discovered as a major component of the Unfolded Protein Response (UPR). PERK deficiency results in permanent neonatal diabetes, which was initially thought to be caused by a failure to regulate ER stress in insulin-secreting beta cells, culminating in beta cell death. However, subsequent studies found that low beta cell mass was due to reduced cell proliferation, rather than increased apoptosis. Genetic and cellular studies of Perk-deficient beta cells showed that PERK was critically required for ER functions including proinsulin trafficking and quality control, unrelated to the ER stress pathway. Under normal physiological conditions, changes in ER calcium levels, mediated by glucose and other insulin secretagogues, regulate PERK activity for the purpose of controlling insulin biogenesis.
Loss-of-function mutations in Perk (EIF2AK3) result in permanent neonatal diabetes in humans (Wolcott-Rallison Syndrome) and mice. Previously, we found that diabetes associated with Perk deficiency resulted from insufficient proliferation of β-cells and from defects in insulin secretion. A substantial fraction of PERK-deficient β-cells display a highly abnormal cellular phenotype characterized by grossly distended endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and retention of proinsulin. We investigated over synthesis, lack of ER-associated degradation (ERAD), and defects in ER to Golgi trafficking as possible causes.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
ER functions of PERK were investigated in cell culture and mice in which Perk was impaired or gene dosage modulated. The Ins2+/Akita mutant mice were used as a model system to test the role of PERK in ERAD.
We report that loss of Perk function does not lead to uncontrolled protein synthesis but impaired ER-to-Golgi anterograde trafficking, retrotranslocation from the ER to the cytoplasm, and proteasomal degradation. PERK was also shown to be required to maintain the integrity of the ER and Golgi and processing of ATF6. Moreover, decreasing Perk dosage surprisingly ameliorates the progression of the Akita mutants toward diabetes.
PERK is a positive regulator of ERAD and proteasomal activity. Reducing PERK activity ameliorates the progression of diabetes in the Akita mouse, whereas increasing PERK dosage hastens its progression. We speculate that PERK acts as a metabolic sensor in the insulin-secreting β-cells to modulate the trafficking and quality control of proinsulin in the ER relative to the physiological demands for circulating insulin.
The liver plays a central role in regulating lipid metabolism and facilitates efficient lipid utilization and storage. We discovered that a modest increase in maternal dietary fat in mice programs triglyceride storage in the liver of their developing offspring. The activation of this programming is not apparent, however, until several months later at the adult stage. We found that the perinatal programming of adult hepatic triglyceride storage was controlled by the eIF2α kinase GCN2 (EIF2AK4) in the brain of the offspring, which stimulates epigenetic modification of the Pparγ2 gene in the neonatal liver. Genetic ablation of Gcn2 in the offspring exhibited reduced hepatic triglyceride storage and repressed expression of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma 2 (Pparγ2) and two lipid droplet protein genes, Fsp27 and Cidea. Brain-specific, but not liver-specific, Gcn2 KO mice exhibit these same defects demonstrating that GCN2 in the developing brain programs hepatic triglyceride storage. GCN2 and nutrition-dependent programming of Pparγ2 is correlated with trimethylation of lysine 4 of histone 3 (H3K4me3) in the Pparγ2 promoter region during neonatal development. In addition to regulating hepatic triglyceride in response to modest changes in dietary fat, Gcn2 deficiency profoundly impacts the severity of the obese-diabetic phenotype of the leptin receptor mutant (db/db) mouse, by reducing hepatic steatosis and obesity but exacerbating the diabetic phenotype. We suggest that GCN2-dependent perinatal programming of hepatic triglyceride storage is an adaptation to couple early nutrition to anticipated needs for hepatic triglyceride storage in adults. However, increasing the hepatic triglyceride set point during perinatal development may predispose individuals to hepatosteatosis, while reducing circulating fatty acid levels that promote insulin resistance.
Translational control depends on phosphorylation of eIF2α by PKR-like ER kinase (PERK). To examine the role of PERK in cognitive function, we selectively disrupted PERK expression in the adult mouse forebrain. In the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of PERK-deficient mice, eIF2α phosphorylation and ATF4 expression were diminished and associated with enhanced behavioral perseveration, decreased prepulse inhibition, reduced fear extinction, and impaired behavioral flexibility. Treatment with the glycine transporter inhibitor SSR504734 normalized eIF2α phosphorylation, ATF4 expression, and behavioral flexibility in PERK-deficient mice. Moreover, PERK and ATF4 expression were reduced in the frontal cortex of human schizophrenic patients. Together, our findings reveal that PERK plays a critical role in information processing and cognitive function, and that modulation of eIF2α phosphorylation and ATF4 expression may represent an effective strategy for treating behavioral inflexibility associated with several neurological disorders including schizophrenia.
PERK; translational control; eIF2α; ATF4; prefrontal cortex; cognitive control; glycine transporter-1 inhibitor; behavioral flexibility; schizophrenia
The ER chaperone GRP78/BiP is a homolog of the Hsp70 family of heat shock proteins, yet GRP78/BiP is not induced by heat shock but instead by ER stress. However, previous studies had not considered more physiologically relevant temperature elevation associated with febrile hyperthermia. In this report we examine the response of GRP78/BiP and other components of the ER stress pathway in cells exposed to 40°C.
AD293 cells were exposed to 43°C heat shock to confirm inhibition of the ER stress response genes. Five mammalian cell types, including AD293 cells, were then exposed to 40°C hyperthermia for various time periods and induction of the ER stress pathway was assessed.
The inhibition of the ER stress pathway by heat shock (43°C) was confirmed. In contrast cells subjected to more mild temperature elevation (40°C) showed either a partial or full ER stress pathway induction as determined by downstream targets of the three arms of the ER stress pathway as well as a heat shock response. Cells deficient for Perk or Gcn2 exhibit great sensitivity to ER stress induction by hyperthermia.
The ER stress pathway is induced partially or fully as a consequence of hyperthermia in parallel with induction of Hsp70. These findings suggest that the ER and cytoplasm of cells contain parallel pathways to coordinately regulate adaptation to febrile hyperthermia associated with disease or infection.
To avoid excess accumulation of unfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), eukaryotic cells have signaling pathways from the ER to the cytosol or nucleus. These processes are collectively termed the ER stress response. Double stranded RNA activated protein kinase (PKR)-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK) is a major transducer of the ER stress response and directly phosphorylates eIF2α, resulting in translational attenuation. Phosphorylated eIF2α specifically promotes the translation of the transcription factor ATF4. ATF4 plays important roles in osteoblast differentiation and bone formation. Perk−/− mice are reported to exhibit severe osteopenia, and the phenotypes observed in bone tissues are very similar to those of Atf4−/− mice. However, the involvement of the PERK-eIF2α-ATF4 signaling pathway in osteogenesis is unclear. Phosphorylated eIF2α and ATF4 protein levels were attenuated in Perk−/− calvariae, and the gene expression levels of osteocalcin (Ocn) and bone sialoprotein (Bsp), which are targets for ATF4, were also down-regulated. Treatment of wild-type primary osteoblasts with BMP2, which is required for osteoblast differentiation, induced ER stress, leading to an increase in ATF4 protein expression levels. In contrast, the level of ATF4 in Perk−/− osteoblasts was severely diminished. The results indicate that PERK signaling is required for ATF4 activation during osteoblast differentiation. Perk−/− osteoblasts exhibited decreased alkaline phosphatase activities and delayed mineralized nodule formation relative to wild-type cultures. These abnormalities were almost completely restored by the introduction of ATF4 into Perk−/− osteoblasts. Taken together, ER stress occurs during osteoblast differentiation and activates the PERK-eIF2α-ATF4 signaling pathway followed by the promotion of gene expression essential for osteogenesis, such as Ocn and Bsp.
Bone; Differentiation; ER Stress; Transcription Factors; Transcription Target Genes; Osteoblast
PERK eIF2α kinase is required for the proliferation of the insulin-secreting beta- cells as well as insulin synthesis and secretion. In addition, PERK signaling has been found to be an important factor in determining growth and angiogenesis of specific types of tumors, and was attributed to PERK-dependent regulation of the hypoxic stress response. In this report we examine the role of PERK in regulating proliferation and angiogenesis of transformed beta-cells in the development of insulinomas.
The SV40 Large T-antigen (Tag) was genetically introduced into the insulin secreting beta-cells of Perk KO mice under the control of an inducible promoter. Tumor growth and the related parameters of cell proliferation were measured. In late stage insulinomas the degree of vascularity was determined.
The formation and growth of insulinomas in Perk-deficient mice was dramatically ablated with much fewer tumors, which averaged 38-fold smaller than seen in wild-type control mice. Beta-cell proliferation was ablated in Perk-deficient mice associated with reduced tumor growth. In the small number of large encapsulated insulinomas that developed in Perk-deficient mice, we found a dramatic reduction in tumor vascularity compared to similar sized insulinomas in wild-type mice. Although insulinoma growth in Perk-deficient mice was largely impaired, beta-cell mass was increased sufficiently by T-antigen induction to rescue the hypoinsulinemia and diabetes in these mice.
We conclude that PERK has two roles in the development of beta-cell insulinomas, first to support rapid cell proliferation during the initial transition to islet hyperplasia and later to promote angiogenesis during the progression to late-stage encapsulated tumors.
A deficiency in Perk (EIF2AK3) causes multiple neonatal defects in humans known as the Wolcott Rallison syndrome. Perk KO mice exhibit the same array of defects including permanent neonatal diabetes (PND). PND in mice was previously shown by us to be due to a decrease in beta cell proliferation and insulin secretion. The aim of this study was to determine if acute ablation of PERK in the 832/13 beta cells recapitulates these defects and to identify the primary molecular basis for beta cell dysfunction.
The INS1 832/13 transformed rat beta cell line was transduced with a dominant-negative Perk transgene via an adenoviral vector. AdDNPerk-832/13 beta cells exhibited reduced expression of insulin and MafA mRNAs, reduced insulin secretion, and reduced cell proliferation. Although proinsulin content was reduced in AdDNPerk-832/13 beta cells, proinsulin was abnormally retained in the endoplasmic reticulum. A temporal study of the acute ablation of Perk revealed that the earliest defect seen was induced expression of two ER chaperone proteins, GRP78/BiP and ERp72. The oxidized states of ERp72 and ERp57 were also increased suggesting an imbalance in the redox state of the ER.
Acute ablation of Perk in INS 832/13 beta cells exhibited all of the major defects seen in Perk KO mice and revealed abnormal expression and redox state of key ER chaperone proteins. Dysregulation of ER chaperone/folding enzymes ERp72 and GRP78/BiP occurred early after ablation of PERK function suggesting that changes in ER secretory functions may give rise to the other defects including reduced insulin gene expression, secretion, and cell proliferation.
mTORC1 is a complex of proteins that includes the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and several regulatory proteins. It is activated by a variety of hormones (e.g. insulin) and nutrients (e.g. amino acids) that act to stimulate cell growth and proliferation and repressed by hormones (e.g. glucocorticoids) that act to reduce cell growth. Curiously, mTORC1 signaling is reported to be rapidly (e.g. within 1-2 h) activated by inhibitors of protein synthesis that act on either mRNA translation elongation or gene transcription. However, the basis for the mTORC1 activation has not been satisfactorily delineated. In the present study, mTORC1 signaling was found to be activated in response to inhibition of either the initiation or elongation phases of mRNA translation. Changes in mTORC1 signaling were inversely proportional to alterations in the expression of the mTORC1 repressor, REDD1, but not the expression of TRB3 or TSC2. Moreover the cycloheximide-induced increase in mTORC1 signaling was significantly attenuated in cells lacking REDD1, showing that REDD1 plays an integral role in the response. Finally, the half-life of REDD1 was estimated to be 5 min or less. Overall, the results are consistent with a model in which inhibition of protein synthesis leads to a loss of REDD1 protein due to its rapid degradation, and in part reduced REDD1 expression subsequently leads to de-repression of mTORC1 activity.
Deficiency of the PERK eIF2α kinase in humans and mice results in postnatal exocrine pancreatic atrophy as well as severe growth and metabolic anomalies in other organs and tissues. To determine if the exocrine pancreatic atrophy is due to a cell-autonomous defect, the Perk gene was specifically ablated in acinar cells of the exocrine pancreas in mice.
We show that expression of PERK in the acinar cells is required to maintain their viability but is not required for normal protein synthesis and secretion. Exocrine pancreatic atrophy in PERK-deficient mice was previously attributed to uncontrolled ER-stress followed by apoptotic cell death based on studies in cultured fibroblasts. However, we have found no evidence for perturbations in the endoplasmic reticulum or ER-stress and show that acinar cells succumb to a non-apoptotic form of cell death, oncosis, which is associated with a pronounced inflammatory response and induction of the pancreatitis stress response genes. We also show that mice carrying a knockout mutation of PERK's downstream target, ATF4, exhibit pancreatic deficiency caused by developmental defects and that mice ablated for ATF4's transcriptional target CHOP have a normal exocrine pancreas.
We conclude that PERK modulates secretory capacity of the exocrine pancreas by regulating cell viability of acinar cells.
The GMC oxidoreductases comprise a large family of diverse FAD enzymes that share a homologous backbone. The relationship and origin of the GMC oxidoreductase genes, however, was unknown. Recent sequencing of entire genomes has allowed for the evolutionary analysis of the GMC oxidoreductase family.
Although genes that encode enzyme families are rarely linked in higher eukaryotes, we discovered that the majority of the GMC oxidoreductase genes in the fruit fly (D. melanogaster), mosquito (A. gambiae), honeybee (A. mellifera), and flour beetle (T. castaneum) are located in a highly conserved cluster contained within a large intron of the flotillin-2 (Flo-2) gene. In contrast, the genomes of vertebrates and the nematode C. elegans contain few GMC genes and lack a GMC cluster, suggesting that the GMC cluster and the function of its resident genes are unique to insects or arthropods. We found that the development patterns of expression of the GMC cluster genes are highly complex. Among the GMC oxidoreductases located outside of the GMC gene cluster, the identities of two related enzymes, glucose dehydrogenase (GLD) and glucose oxidase (GOX), are known, and they play major roles in development and immunity. We have discovered that several additional GLD and GOX homologues exist in insects but are remotely similar to fungal GOX.
We speculate that the GMC oxidoreductase cluster has been conserved to coordinately regulate these genes for a common developmental or physiological function related to ecdysteroid metabolism. Furthermore, we propose that the GMC gene cluster may be the birthplace of the insect GMC oxidoreductase genes. Through tandem duplication and divergence within the cluster, new GMC genes evolved. Some of the GMC genes have been retained in the cluster for hundreds of millions of years while others might have transposed to other regions of the genome. Consistent with this hypothesis, our analysis indicates that insect GOX and GLD arose from a different ancestral GMC gene than that of fungal GOX.
In response to environmental stress, cells induce a program of gene expression designed to remedy cellular damage or, alternatively, induce apoptosis. In this report, we explore the role of a family of protein kinases that phosphorylate eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF2) in coordinating stress gene responses. We find that expression of activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3), a member of the ATF/CREB subfamily of basic-region leucine zipper (bZIP) proteins, is induced in response to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress or amino acid starvation by a mechanism requiring eIF2 kinases PEK (Perk or EIF2AK3) and GCN2 (EIF2AK4), respectively. Increased expression of ATF3 protein occurs early in response to stress by a mechanism requiring the related bZIP transcriptional regulator ATF4. ATF3 contributes to induction of the CHOP transcriptional factor in response to amino acid starvation, and loss of ATF3 function significantly lowers stress-induced expression of GADD34, an eIF2 protein phosphatase regulatory subunit implicated in feedback control of the eIF2 kinase stress response. Overexpression of ATF3 in mouse embryo fibroblasts partially bypasses the requirement for PEK for induction of GADD34 in response to ER stress, further supporting the idea that ATF3 functions directly or indirectly as a transcriptional activator of genes targeted by the eIF2 kinase stress pathway. These results indicate that ATF3 has an integral role in the coordinate gene expression induced by eIF2 kinases. Given that ATF3 is induced by a very large number of environmental insults, this study supports involvement of eIF2 kinases in the coordination of gene expression in response to a more diverse set of stress conditions than previously proposed.
Nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) serves to coordinate the transcription of genes in response to diverse environmental stresses. In this report we show that phosphorylation of the α subunit of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF2) is fundamental to the process by which many stress signals activate NF-κB. Phosphorylation of this translation factor is carried out by a family of protein kinases that each respond to distinct stress conditions. During impaired protein folding and assembly in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), phosphorylation of eIF2α by PEK (Perk or EIF2AK3) is essential for induction of NF-κB transcriptional activity. The mechanism by which NF-κB is activated during ER stress entails the release, but not the degradation, of the inhibitory protein IκB. During amino acid deprivation, phosphorylation of eIF2α by GCN2 (EIF2AK4) signals the activation of NF-κB. Furthermore, inhibition of general translation or transcription by cycloheximide and actinomycin D, respectively, elicits the eIF2α phosphorylation required for induction of NF-κB. Together, these studies suggest that eIF2α kinases monitor and are activated by a range of stress conditions that affect transcription and protein synthesis and assembly, and the resulting eIFα phosphorylation is central to activation of the NF-κB. The absence of NF-κB-mediated transcription and its antiapoptotic function provides an explanation for why eIF2α kinase deficiency in diseases such as Wolcott-Rallison syndrome leads to cellular apoptosis and disease.
The GCN2 eIF2α kinase is essential for activation of the general amino acid control pathway in yeast when one or more amino acids become limiting for growth. GCN2's function in mammals is unknown, but must differ, since mammals, unlike yeast, can synthesize only half of the standard 20 amino acids. To investigate the function of mammalian GCN2, we have generated a Gcn2−/− knockout strain of mice. Gcn2−/− mice are viable, fertile, and exhibit no phenotypic abnormalities under standard growth conditions. However, prenatal and neonatal mortalities are significantly increased in Gcn2−/− mice whose mothers were reared on leucine-, tryptophan-, or glycine-deficient diets during gestation. Leucine deprivation produced the most pronounced effect, with a 63% reduction in the expected number of viable neonatal mice. Cultured embryonic stem cells derived from Gcn2−/− mice failed to show the normal induction of eIF2α phosphorylation in cells deprived of leucine. To assess the biochemical effects of the loss of GCN2 in the whole animal, liver perfusion experiments were conducted. Histidine limitation in the presence of histidinol induced a twofold increase in the phosphorylation of eIF2α and a concomitant reduction in eIF2B activity in perfused livers from wild-type mice, but no changes in livers from Gcn2−/− mice.
Phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor 2α (eIF-2α) is typically associated with stress responses and causes a reduction in protein synthesis. However, we found high phosphorylated eIF-2α (eIF-2α[P]) levels in nonstressed pancreata of mice. Administration of glucose stimulated a rapid dephosphorylation of eIF-2α. Among the four eIF-2α kinases present in mammals, PERK is most highly expressed in the pancreas, suggesting that it may be responsible for the high eIF-2α[P] levels found therein. We describe a Perk knockout mutation in mice. Pancreata of Perk−/− mice are morphologically and functionally normal at birth, but the islets of Langerhans progressively degenerate, resulting in loss of insulin-secreting beta cells and development of diabetes mellitus, followed later by loss of glucagon-secreting alpha cells. The exocrine pancreas exhibits a reduction in the synthesis of several major digestive enzymes and succumbs to massive apoptosis after the fourth postnatal week. Perk−/− mice also exhibit skeletal dysplasias at birth and postnatal growth retardation. Skeletal defects include deficient mineralization, osteoporosis, and abnormal compact bone development. The skeletal and pancreatic defects are associated with defects in the rough endoplasmic reticulum of the major secretory cells that comprise the skeletal system and pancreas. The skeletal, pancreatic, and growth defects are similar to those seen in human Wolcott-Rallison syndrome.