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1.  Selective mRNA translation during eIF2 phosphorylation induces expression of IBTKα 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2014;25(10):1686-1697.
This study measured changes in global mRNA translation in response to ER stress. The analysis suggests that translation of a majority of gene transcripts is either repressed or resistant, whereas select key regulators are subject to preferential translation. From this last group, IBTKα is identified as a novel target of the UPR central to cell fate.
Disruption of protein folding in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) triggers the unfolded protein response (UPR), a transcriptional and translational control network designed to restore protein homeostasis. Central to the UPR is PKR-like ER kinase (PERK/EIF2AK3) phosphorylation of the α subunit of eIF2 (eIF2α∼P), which represses global translation coincident with preferential translation of mRNAs, such as activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) and C/EBP-homologous protein (CHOP), that serve to implement UPR transcriptional regulation. In this study, we used sucrose gradient ultracentrifugation and a genome-wide microarray approach to measure changes in mRNA translation during ER stress. Our analysis suggests that translational efficiencies vary over a broad range during ER stress, with the majority of transcripts being either repressed or resistant to eIF2α∼P, whereas a notable cohort of key regulators are subject to preferential translation. From the latter group, we identified the α isoform of inhibitor of Bruton's tyrosine kinase (IBTKα) as being subject to both translational and transcriptional induction during eIF2α∼P in both cell lines and a mouse model of ER stress. Translational regulation of IBTKα mRNA involves stress-induced relief of two inhibitory upstream open reading frames in the 5′-leader of the transcript. Depletion of IBTKα by short hairpin RNA reduced viability of cultured cells coincident with increased caspase 3/7 cleavage, suggesting that IBTKα is a key regulator in determining cell fate during the UPR.
doi:10.1091/mbc.E14-02-0704
PMCID: PMC4019499  PMID: 24648495
2.  The Unfolded Protein Response in the Protozoan Parasite Toxoplasma gondii Features Translational and Transcriptional Control 
Eukaryotic Cell  2013;12(7):979-989.
The unfolded protein response (UPR) is an important regulatory network that responds to perturbations in protein homeostasis in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). In mammalian cells, the UPR features translational and transcriptional mechanisms of gene expression aimed at restoring proteostatic control. A central feature of the UPR is phosphorylation of the α subunit of eukaryotic initiation factor-2 (eIF2) by PERK (EIF2AK3/PEK), which reduces the influx of nascent proteins into the ER by lowering global protein synthesis, coincident with preferential translation of key transcription activators of genes that function to expand the processing capacity of this secretory organelle. Upon ER stress, the apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii is known to induce phosphorylation of Toxoplasma eIF2α and lower translation initiation. To characterize the nature of the ensuing UPR in this parasite, we carried out microarray analyses to measure the changes in the transcriptome and in translational control during ER stress. We determined that a collection of transcripts linked with the secretory process are induced in response to ER stress, supporting the idea that a transcriptional induction phase of the UPR occurs in Toxoplasma. Furthermore, we determined that about 500 gene transcripts showed enhanced association with translating ribosomes during ER stress. Many of these target genes are suggested to be involved in gene expression, including JmjC5, which continues to be actively translated during ER stress. This study indicates that Toxoplasma triggers a UPR during ER stress that features both translational and transcriptional regulatory mechanisms, which is likely to be important for parasite invasion and development.
doi:10.1128/EC.00021-13
PMCID: PMC3697469  PMID: 23666622
3.  CHOP induces activating transcription factor 5 (ATF5) to trigger apoptosis in response to perturbations in protein homeostasis 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(15):2477-2490.
This study addresses the mechanisms by which CHOP directs gene regulatory networks and determines cell fate. Transcriptional expression of ATF5 is activated by both CHOP and ATF4 in the integrated stress response. CHOP and ATF5 control a switch to activate apoptotic genes and decrease cell survival in response to loss of proteostatic control.
Environmental stresses that disrupt protein homeostasis induce phosphorylation of eIF2, triggering repression of global protein synthesis coincident with preferential translation of ATF4, a transcriptional activator of the integrated stress response (ISR). Depending on the extent of protein disruption, ATF4 may not be able to restore proteostatic control and instead switches to a terminal outcome that features elevated expression of the transcription factor CHOP (GADD153/DDIT3). The focus of this study is to define the mechanisms by which CHOP directs gene regulatory networks that determine cell fate. We find that in response to proteasome inhibition, CHOP enhances the expression of a collection of genes encoding transcription regulators, including ATF5, which is preferentially translated during eIF2 phosphorylation. Transcriptional expression of ATF5 is directly induced by both CHOP and ATF4. Knockdown of ATF5 increases cell survival in response to proteasome inhibition, supporting the idea that both ATF5 and CHOP have proapoptotic functions. Transcriptome analysis of ATF5-dependent genes reveals targets involved in apoptosis, including NOXA, which is important for inducing cell death during proteasome inhibition. This study suggests that the ISR features a feedforward loop of stress-induced transcriptional regulators, each subject to transcriptional and translational control, which can switch cell fate toward apoptosis.
doi:10.1091/mbc.E13-01-0067
PMCID: PMC3727939  PMID: 23761072
4.  The eIF2 kinase PERK and the integrated stress response facilitate activation of ATF6 during endoplasmic reticulum stress 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2011;22(22):4390-4405.
This study shows that the eIF2 kinase PERK is required not only for translational control but also for activation of ATF6 and its target genes in the unfolded protein response. The PERK pathway facilitates both the synthesis of ATF6 and trafficking of ATF6 from the endoplasmic reticulum to the Golgi for intramembrane proteolysis and activation of ATF6.
Disruptions of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) that perturb protein folding cause ER stress and elicit an unfolded protein response (UPR) that involves translational and transcriptional changes in gene expression aimed at expanding the ER processing capacity and alleviating cellular injury. Three ER stress sensors (PERK, ATF6, and IRE1) implement the UPR. PERK phosphorylation of the α subunit of eIF2 during ER stress represses protein synthesis, which prevents further influx of ER client proteins. Phosphorylation of eIF2α (eIF2α∼P) also induces preferential translation of ATF4, a transcription activator of the integrated stress response. In this study we show that the PERK/eIF2α∼P/ATF4 pathway is required not only for translational control, but also for activation of ATF6 and its target genes. The PERK pathway facilitates both the synthesis of ATF6 and trafficking of ATF6 from the ER to the Golgi for intramembrane proteolysis and activation of ATF6. As a consequence, liver-specific depletion of PERK significantly reduces both the translational and transcriptional phases of the UPR, leading to reduced protein chaperone expression, disruptions of lipid metabolism, and enhanced apoptosis. These findings show that the regulatory networks of the UPR are fully integrated and help explain the diverse biological defects associated with loss of PERK.
doi:10.1091/mbc.E11-06-0510
PMCID: PMC3216664  PMID: 21917591
5.  Inhibitors of eIF2α Dephosphorylation Slow Replication and Stabilize Latency in Toxoplasma gondii 
Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite that permanently infects warm-blooded vertebrates through its ability to convert into a latent tissue cyst form. The latent form (bradyzoite) can reinitiate a life-threatening acute infection if host immunity wanes, most commonly in AIDS or organ transplant patients. We have previously shown that bradyzoite development is accompanied by phosphorylation of the parasite eukaryotic initiation factor 2 alpha subunit (eIF2α), which dampens global protein synthesis and reprograms gene expression. In this study, we analyzed the activities of two specific inhibitors of eIF2α dephosphorylation, salubrinal (SAL) and guanabenz (GA). We establish that these drugs are able to inhibit the dephosphorylation of Toxoplasma eIF2α. Our results show that SAL and GA reduce tachyzoite replication in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, both drugs induce bradyzoite formation and inhibit the reactivation of latent bradyzoites in vitro. To address whether the antiparasitic activities of SAL and GA involve host eIF2α phosphorylation, we infected mutant mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) cells incapable of phosphorylating eIF2α, which had no impact on the efficacies of SAL and GA against Toxoplasma infection. Our findings suggest that SAL and GA may serve as potential new drugs for the treatment of acute and chronic toxoplasmosis.
doi:10.1128/AAC.01899-12
PMCID: PMC3623309  PMID: 23380722
6.  Eukaryotic Initiation Factor 2 Phosphorylation and Translational Control in Metabolism12 
Advances in Nutrition  2012;3(3):307-321.
Regulation of mRNA translation is a rapid and effective means to couple changes in the cellular environment with global rates of protein synthesis. In response to stresses, such as nutrient deprivation and accumulation of misfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum, phosphorylation of the α subunit of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF2α~P) reduces general translation initiation while facilitating the preferential translation of select transcripts, such as that encoding activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4), a transcriptional activator of genes subject to the integrated stress response (ISR). In this review, we highlight the translational control processes regulated by nutritional stress, with an emphasis on the events triggered by eIF2α~P, and describe the family of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 kinases and the mechanisms by which each sense different stresses. We then address 3 questions. First, what are the mechanisms by which eIF2α~P confers preferential translation on select mRNA and what are the consequences of the gene expression induced by the ISR? Second, what are the molecular processes by which certain stresses can differentially activate eIF2α~P and ATF4 expression? The third question we address is what are the modes of cross-regulation between the ISR and other stress response pathways, such as the unfolded protein response and mammalian target of rapamycin, and how do these regulatory schemes provide for gene expression programs that are tailored for specific stresses? This review highlights recent advances in each of these areas of research, emphasizing how eIF2α~P and the ISR can affect metabolic health and disease.
doi:10.3945/an.112.002113
PMCID: PMC3649462  PMID: 22585904
7.  Brain-specific Disruption of the eIF2α Kinase PERK Decreases ATF4 Expression and Impairs Behavioral Flexibility 
Cell Reports  2012;1(6):676-688.
Summary
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.
doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2012.04.010
PMCID: PMC3401382  PMID: 22813743
PERK; translational control; eIF2α; ATF4; prefrontal cortex; cognitive control; glycine transporter-1 inhibitor; behavioral flexibility; schizophrenia
8.  A GCN2-Like Eukaryotic Initiation Factor 2 Kinase Increases the Viability of Extracellular Toxoplasma gondii Parasites ▿ † 
Eukaryotic Cell  2011;10(11):1403-1412.
Toxoplasmosis is a significant opportunistic infection caused by the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, an obligate intracellular pathogen that relies on host cell nutrients for parasite proliferation. Toxoplasma parasites divide until they rupture the host cell, at which point the extracellular parasites must survive until they find a new host cell. Recent studies have indicated that phosphorylation of Toxoplasma eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2-alpha (TgIF2α) plays a key role in promoting parasite viability during times of extracellular stress. Here we report the cloning and characterization of a TgIF2α kinase designated TgIF2K-D that is related to GCN2, a eukaryotic initiation factor 2α (eIF2α) kinase known to respond to nutrient starvation in other organisms. TgIF2K-D is present in the cytosol of both intra- and extracellular Toxoplasma parasites and facilitates translational control through TgIF2α phosphorylation in extracellular parasites. We generated a TgIF2K-D knockout parasite and demonstrated that loss of this eIF2α kinase leads to a significant fitness defect that stems from an inability of the parasite to adequately adapt to the environment outside host cells. This phenotype is consistent with that reported for our nonphosphorylatable TgIF2α mutant (S71A substitution), establishing that TgIF2K-D is the primary eIF2α kinase responsible for promoting extracellular viability of Toxoplasma. These studies suggest that eIF2α phosphorylation and translational control are an important mechanism by which vulnerable extracellular parasites protect themselves while searching for a new host cell. Additionally, TgIF2α is phosphorylated when intracellular parasites are deprived of nutrients, but this can occur independently of TgIF2K-D, indicating that this activity can be mediated by a different TgIF2K.
doi:10.1128/EC.05117-11
PMCID: PMC3209059  PMID: 21908594
9.  Mechanisms of translational regulation by a human eIF5-mimic protein 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(19):8314-8328.
The translation factor eIF5 is an important partner of eIF2, directly modulating its function in several critical steps. First, eIF5 binds eIF2/GTP/Met-tRNAiMet ternary complex (TC), promoting its recruitment to 40S ribosomal subunits. Secondly, its GTPase activating function promotes eIF2 dissociation for ribosomal subunit joining. Finally, eIF5 GDP dissociation inhibition (GDI) activity can antagonize eIF2 reactivation by competing with the eIF2 guanine exchange factor (GEF), eIF2B. The C-terminal domain (CTD) of eIF5, a W2-type HEAT domain, mediates its interaction with eIF2. Here, we characterize a related human protein containing MA3- and W2-type HEAT domains, previously termed BZW2 and renamed here as eIF5-mimic protein 1 (5MP1). Human 5MP1 interacts with eIF2 and eIF3 and inhibits general and gene-specific translation in mammalian systems. We further test whether 5MP1 is a mimic or competitor of the GEF catalytic subunit eIF2Bε or eIF5, using yeast as a model. Our results suggest that 5MP1 interacts with yeast eIF2 and promotes TC formation, but inhibits TC binding to the ribosome. Moreover, 5MP1 is not a GEF but a weak GDI for yeast eIF2. We propose that 5MP1 is a partial mimic and competitor of eIF5, interfering with the key steps by which eIF5 regulates eIF2 function.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkr339
PMCID: PMC3201852  PMID: 21745818
10.  Selective control of amino acid metabolism by the GCN2 eIF2 kinase pathway in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
BMC Biochemistry  2010;11:29.
Background
When eukaryotic cells are deprived of amino acids, uncharged tRNAs accumulate and activate the conserved GCN2 protein kinase. Activated Gcn2p up-regulates the general amino acid control pathway through phosphorylation of the translational initiation factor eIF2. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Gcn2p is the only kinase that phosphorylates eIF2 to regulate translation through this mechanism. We addressed changes in yeast growth and tRNA aminoacylation, or charging, during amino acid depletion in the presence and absence of GCN2. tRNA charging was measured using a microarray technique which simultaneously measures all cytosolic tRNAs. A fully prototrophic strain, and its isogenic gcn2Δ counterpart, were used to study depletion for each of the 20 amino acids, with a focus on Trp, Arg, His and Leu, which are metabolically distinct and together provide a good overview on amino acid metabolism.
Results
While the wild-type strain had no observable phenotype upon depletion for any amino acid, the gcn2Δ strain showed slow growth in media devoid of only Trp or Arg. Consistent with the growth phenotypes, profiles of genome-wide tRNA charging revealed significant decrease in cognate tRNA charging only in the gcn2Δ strain upon depletion for Trp or Arg. In contrast, there was no change in tRNA charging during His and Leu depletion in either the wild-type or gcn2Δ strains, consistent with the null effect on growth during loss of these amino acids. We determined that the growth phenotype of Trp depletion is derived from feedback inhibition of aromatic amino acid biosynthesis. By removing Phe and Tyr from the media in addition to Trp, regular growth was restored and tRNATrp charging no longer decreased. The growth phenotype of Arg depletion is derived from unbalanced nitrogen metabolism. By supplementing ornithine upon Arg depletion, both growth and tRNAArg charging were partially restored.
Conclusion
Under mild stress conditions the basal activity of Gcn2p is sufficient to allow for proper adaptation to amino acid depletion. This study highlights the importance of the GCN2 eIF2 kinase pathway for maintaining metabolic homeostasis, contributing to appropriate tRNA charging and growth adaptation in response to culture conditions deficient for the central amino acids, tryptophan and arginine.
doi:10.1186/1471-2091-11-29
PMCID: PMC2921344  PMID: 20684782
11.  DNA Methyltransferase Protein Synthesis Is Reduced in CXXC Finger Protein 1-Deficient Embryonic Stem Cells 
DNA and cell biology  2009;28(5):223-231.
CXXC finger protein 1 (CFP1) binds to unmethylated CpG dinucleotides and is required for embryogenesis. CFP1 is also a component of the Setd1A and Setd1B histone H3K4 methyltransferase complexes. Murine embryonic stem (ES) cells lacking CFP1 fail to differentiate, and exhibit a 70% reduction in global genomic cytosine methylation and a 50% reduction in DNA methyltransferase (DNMT1) protein and activity. This study investigated the underlying mechanism for reduced DNMT1 expression in CFP1-deficient ES cells. DNMT1 transcript levels were significantly elevated in ES cells lacking CFP1, despite the observed reduction in DNMT1 protein levels. To address the posttranscriptional mechanisms by which CFP1 regulates DNMT1 protein activity, pulse/chase analyses were carried out, demonstrating a modest reduction in DNMT1 protein half-life in CFP1-deficient ES cells. Additionally, global protein synthesis was decreased in ES cells lacking CFP1, contributing to a reduction in the synthesis of DNMT1 protein. ES cells lacking CFP1 were found to contain elevated levels of phosphorylated eIF2α, and an accompanying reduction in translation initiation as revealed by a lower level of polyribosomes. These results reveal a novel role for CFP1 in the regulation of translation initiation, and indicate that loss of CFP1 function leads to decreased DNMT1 protein synthesis and half-life.
doi:10.1089/dna.2009.0854
PMCID: PMC2793591  PMID: 19388845
12.  DNA Methyltransferase Protein Synthesis Is Reduced in CXXC Finger Protein 1–Deficient Embryonic Stem Cells 
DNA and Cell Biology  2009;28(5):223-231.
CXXC finger protein 1 (CFP1) binds to unmethylated CpG dinucleotides and is required for embryogenesis. CFP1 is also a component of the Setd1A and Setd1B histone H3K4 methyltransferase complexes. Murine embryonic stem (ES) cells lacking CFP1 fail to differentiate, and exhibit a 70% reduction in global genomic cytosine methylation and a 50% reduction in DNA methyltransferase (DNMT1) protein and activity. This study investigated the underlying mechanism for reduced DNMT1 expression in CFP1-deficient ES cells. DNMT1 transcript levels were significantly elevated in ES cells lacking CFP1, despite the observed reduction in DNMT1 protein levels. To address the posttranscriptional mechanisms by which CFP1 regulates DNMT1 protein activity, pulse/chase analyses were carried out, demonstrating a modest reduction in DNMT1 protein half-life in CFP1-deficient ES cells. Additionally, global protein synthesis was decreased in ES cells lacking CFP1, contributing to a reduction in the synthesis of DNMT1 protein. ES cells lacking CFP1 were found to contain elevated levels of phosphorylated eIF2α, and an accompanying reduction in translation initiation as revealed by a lower level of polyribosomes. These results reveal a novel role for CFP1 in the regulation of translation initiation, and indicate that loss of CFP1 function leads to decreased DNMT1 protein synthesis and half-life.
doi:10.1089/dna.2009.0854
PMCID: PMC2793591  PMID: 19388845
13.  The Unfolded Protein Response of B-Lymphocytes: PERK-independent Development of Antibody-Secreting Cells 
Molecular immunology  2007;45(4):1035-1043.
When B-lymphocytes differentiate into plasma cells, immunoglobulin (Ig) heavy and light chain synthesis escalates and the entire secretory apparatus expands to support high-rate antibody secretion. These same events occur when murine B-cells are stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS), providing an in vitro model in which to investigate the differentiation process. The unfolded protein response (UPR), a multi-pathway signaling response emanating from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane, allows cells to adapt to increasing demands on the protein folding capacity of the ER. As such, the UPR plays a pivotal role in the differentiation of antibody-secreting cells. Three specific stress sensors, IRE1, PERK/PEK and ATF6, are central to the recognition of ER stress and induction of the UPR. IRE1 triggers splicing of Xbp-1 mRNA, yielding a transcriptional activator of the UPR termed XBP-1(S), and activation of the IRE1/XBP-1 pathway has been reported to be required for expansion of the ER and antibody secretion. Here, we provide evidence that PERK is not activated in LPS-stimulated splenic B-cells, whereas XBP-1(S) and the UPR transcriptional activator ATF6 are both induced. We further demonstrate that Perk-/- B-cells develop and are fully competent for induction of Ig synthesis and antibody secretion when stimulated with LPS. These data provide clear evidence for differential activation and utilization of distinct UPR components as activated B-lymphocytes increase Ig synthesis and differentiate into specialized secretory cells.
doi:10.1016/j.molimm.2007.07.029
PMCID: PMC2677759  PMID: 17822768
B-lymphocytes; plasma cells; antibody secretion; unfolded protein response; PERK
14.  Different Effect of Proteasome Inhibition on Vesicular Stomatitis Virus and Poliovirus Replication 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(4):e1887.
Proteasome activity is an important part of viral replication. In this study, we examined the effect of proteasome inhibitors on the replication of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) and poliovirus. We found that the proteasome inhibitors significantly suppressed VSV protein synthesis, virus accumulation, and protected infected cells from toxic effect of VSV replication. In contrast, poliovirus replication was delayed, but not diminished in the presence of the proteasome inhibitors MG132 and Bortezomib. We also found that inhibition of proteasomes stimulated stress-related processes, such as accumulation of chaperone hsp70, phosphorylation of eIF2α, and overall inhibition of translation. VSV replication was sensitive to this stress with significant decline in replication process. Poliovirus growth was less sensitive with only delay in replication. Inhibition of proteasome activity suppressed cellular and VSV protein synthesis, but did not reduce poliovirus protein synthesis. Protein kinase GCN2 supported the ability of proteasome inhibitors to attenuate general translation and to suppress VSV replication. We propose that different mechanisms of translational initiation by VSV and poliovirus determine their sensitivity to stress induced by the inhibition of proteasomes. To our knowledge, this is the first study that connects the effect of stress induced by proteasome inhibition with the efficiency of viral infection.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001887
PMCID: PMC2268745  PMID: 18382670
15.  Stress-Activated Protein Kinase Pathway Functions To Support Protein Synthesis and Translational Adaptation in Response to Environmental Stress in Fission Yeast 
Eukaryotic Cell  2005;4(11):1785-1793.
The stress-activated protein kinase (SAPK) pathway plays a central role in coordinating gene expression in response to diverse environmental stress stimuli. We examined the role of this pathway in the translational response to stress in Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Exposing wild-type cells to osmotic stress (KCl) resulted in a rapid but transient reduction in protein synthesis. Protein synthesis was further reduced in mutants disrupting the SAPK pathway, including the mitogen-activated protein kinase Wis1 or the mitogen-activated protein kinase Spc1/Sty1, suggesting a role for these stress response factors in this translational control. Further polysome analyses revealed a role for Spc1 in supporting translation initiation during osmotic stress, and additionally in facilitating translational adaptation. Exposure to oxidative stress (H2O2) resulted in a striking reduction in translation initiation in wild-type cells, which was further reduced in spc1− cells. Reduced translation initiation correlated with phosphorylation of the α subunit of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF2α) in wild-type cells. Disruption of Wis1 or Spc1 kinase or the downstream bZip transcription factors Atf1 and Pap1 resulted in a marked increase in eIF2α phosphorylation which was dependent on the eIF2α kinases Hri2 and Gcn2. These findings suggest a role for the SAPK pathway in supporting translation initiation and facilitating adaptation to environmental stress in part through reducing eIF2α phosphorylation in fission yeast.
doi:10.1128/EC.4.11.1785-1793.2005
PMCID: PMC1287851  PMID: 16278445
16.  Activating Transcription Factor 3 Is Integral to the Eukaryotic Initiation Factor 2 Kinase Stress Response 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(3):1365-1377.
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.
doi:10.1128/MCB.24.3.1365-1377.2004
PMCID: PMC321431  PMID: 14729979
17.  Phosphorylation of the α Subunit of Eukaryotic Initiation Factor 2 Is Required for Activation of NF-κB in Response to Diverse Cellular Stresses 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(16):5651-5663.
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.
doi:10.1128/MCB.23.16.5651-5663.2003
PMCID: PMC166326  PMID: 12897138
18.  Phosphorylation of Eukaryotic Initiation Factor 2 by Heme-Regulated Inhibitor Kinase-Related Protein Kinases in Schizosaccharomyces pombe Is Important for Resistance to Environmental Stresses 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2002;22(20):7134-7146.
Protein synthesis is regulated by the phosphorylation of the α subunit of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF2α) in response to different environmental stresses. One member of the eIF2α kinase family, heme-regulated inhibitor kinase (HRI), is activated under heme-deficient conditions and blocks protein synthesis, principally globin, in mammalian erythroid cells. We identified two HRI-related kinases from Schizosaccharomyces pombe which have full-length homology with mammalian HRI. The two HRI-related kinases, named Hri1p and Hri2p, exhibit autokinase and kinase activity specific for Ser-51 of eIF2α, and both activities were inhibited in vitro by hemin, as previously described for mammalian HRI. Overexpression of Hri1p, Hri2p, or the human eIF2α kinase, double-stranded-RNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR), impeded growth of S. pombe due to elevated phosphorylation of eIF2α. Cells from strains with deletions of the hri1+ and hri2+ genes, individually or in combination, exhibited a reduced growth rate when exposed to heat shock or to arsenic compounds. Measurements of in vivo phosphorylation of eIF2α suggest that Hri1p and Hri2p differentially phosphorylate eIF2α in response to these stress conditions. These results demonstrate that HRI-related enzymes are not unique to vertebrates and suggest that these eIF2α kinases are important participants in diverse stress response pathways in some lower eukaryotes.
doi:10.1128/MCB.22.20.7134-7146.2002
PMCID: PMC139816  PMID: 12242291
19.  The GCN2 eIF2α Kinase Is Required for Adaptation to Amino Acid Deprivation in Mice 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2002;22(19):6681-6688.
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.
doi:10.1128/MCB.22.19.6681-6688.2002
PMCID: PMC134046  PMID: 12215525
20.  Glucose Limitation Induces GCN4 Translation by Activation of Gcn2 Protein Kinase 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2000;20(8):2706-2717.
Phosphorylation of the α subunit of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF-2α) is a well-characterized mechanism regulating protein synthesis in response to environmental stresses. In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, starvation for amino acids induces phosphorylation of eIF-2α by Gcn2 protein kinase, leading to elevated translation of GCN4, a transcriptional activator of more than 50 genes. Uncharged tRNA that accumulates during amino acid limitation is proposed to activate Gcn2p by associating with Gcn2p sequences homologous to histidyl-tRNA synthetase (HisRS) enzymes. Given that eIF-2α phosphorylation in mammals is induced in response to both carbohydrate and amino acid limitations, we addressed whether activation of Gcn2p in yeast is also controlled by different nutrient deprivations. We found that starvation for glucose induces Gcn2p phosphorylation of eIF-2α and stimulates GCN4 translation. Induction of eIF-2α phosphorylation by Gcn2p during glucose limitation requires the function of the HisRS-related domain but is largely independent of the ribosome binding sequences of Gcn2p. Furthermore, Gcn20p, a factor required for Gcn2 protein kinase stimulation of GCN4 expression in response to amino acid starvation, is not essential for GCN4 translational control in response to limitation for carbohydrates. These results indicate there are differences between the mechanisms regulating Gcn2p activity in response to amino acid and carbohydrate deficiency. Gcn2p induction of GCN4 translation during carbohydrate limitation enhances storage of amino acids in the vacuoles and facilitates entry into exponential growth during a shift from low-glucose to high-glucose medium. Gcn2p function also contributes to maintenance of glycogen levels during prolonged glucose starvation, suggesting a linkage between amino acid control and glycogen metabolism.
PMCID: PMC85486  PMID: 10733573
21.  Identification and Characterization of Pancreatic Eukaryotic Initiation Factor 2 α-Subunit Kinase, PEK, Involved in Translational Control 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1998;18(12):7499-7509.
In response to various environmental stresses, eukaryotic cells down-regulate protein synthesis by phosphorylation of the α subunit of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 (eIF-2α). In mammals, the phosphorylation was shown to be carried out by eIF-2α kinases PKR and HRI. We report the identification and characterization of a cDNA from rat pancreatic islet cells that encodes a new related kinase, which we term pancreatic eIF-2α kinase, or PEK. In addition to a catalytic domain with sequence and structural features conserved among eIF-2α kinases, PEK contains a distinctive amino-terminal region 550 residues in length. Using recombinant PEK produced in Escherichia coli or Sf-9 insect cells, we demonstrate that PEK is autophosphorylated on both serine and threonine residues and that the recombinant enzyme can specifically phosphorylate eIF-2α on serine-51. Northern blot analyses indicate that PEK mRNA is expressed in all tissues examined, with highest levels in pancreas cells. Consistent with our mRNA assays, PEK activity was predominantly detected in pancreas and pancreatic islet cells. The regulatory role of PEK in protein synthesis was demonstrated both in vitro and in vivo. The addition of recombinant PEK to reticulocyte lysates caused a dose-dependent inhibition of translation. In the Saccharomyces model system, PEK functionally substituted for the endogenous yeast eIF-2α kinase, GCN2, by a process requiring the serine-51 phosphorylation site in eIF-2α. We also identified PEK homologs from both Caenorhabditis elegans and the puffer fish Fugu rubripes, suggesting that this eIF-2α kinase plays an important role in translational control from nematodes to mammals.
PMCID: PMC109330  PMID: 9819435

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