The dsRNA-activated protein kinase (PKR) phosphorylates the α subunit of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 (eIF2α), a global regulator of protein synthesis in mammals. In addition, PKR activates several signal transduction pathways including STAT3 and AKT. PKR is activated by a number of inflammatory stimuli that are induced in the inflamed intestine. In this study we intended to determine the role of PKR in colonic epithelial cells during experimental colitis in mice.
Age- and sex-matched PKR+/+,+/− and PKR−/− littermate mice were reconstituted with wildtype bone marrow cells and subjected to dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced colitis.
PKR−/− mice displayed more severe clinical and histological manifestations upon DSS colitis compared with their PKR+/+,+/− litter-mates. In response to DSS colitis, the colonic epithelial cells of PKR−/− mice exhibited impaired activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR) signaling, including eIF2α phosphorylation, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) chaperone response, and ER-associated degradation (ERAD) components, as well as antioxidative stress response. In addition, the phosphorylation of STAT3 and AKT, which are protective against epithelial cell death and colonic inflammation, was also impaired in the colonic epithelial cells of PKR−/− mice upon DSS colitis.
These data demonstrate that PKR is a physiologically relevant transducer of inflammatory response signaling in colonic epithelial cells. PKR may promote the homeostasis and survival of intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) through eIF2α-mediated UPR activation, as well as the activation of STAT3 and AKT pathways. In the absence of PKR, the survival and proliferation of IECs was impaired, thus exacerbating intestinal inflammation.
PKR; DSS colitis; UPR; prosurvival signaling
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is the intracellular organelle responsible for the synthesis, folding and assembly of proteins destined for secretion and the endomembrane system of the cell. ER quality control (ERQC) is an intensively studied surveillance mechanism that selectively degrades misfolded proteins to ensure that only properly folded proteins exit the ER en route to the Golgi compartment. Proper protein folding is indispensable for the differentiation and function of cells that secrete high levels of protein and defects in protein folding are implicated in many pathologies, including metabolic, genetic, neurodegenerative and inflammatory diseases. Accumulation of misfolded proteins in the ER activates an adaptive set of signaling pathways, collectively known as the unfolded protein response (UPR), to resolve protein misfolding and restore ER homeostasis. Nonsense-mediated RNA decay (NMD) is an RNA surveillance system that selectively degrades nascent mRNAs containing premature termination codons (PTCs). Recently, we used a genetic screen to identify genes that interact with UPR signaling in C. elegans. These studies identified NMD-associated genes that are required for ER protein folding homeostasis. These findings link the quality control systems required for ER protein folding and RNA biogenesis, provide new insights into mechanisms of ERQC and have implications on diseases of ER dysfunction and therapeutic approaches based on NMD inhibition. Here, we discuss the biological significance of these findings and future directions for study.
endoplasmic reticulum stress; unfolded protein response; nonsense-mediated RNA decay; quality control; protein folding; premature termination codons
A central function of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is to coordinate protein biosynthetic and secretory activities in the cell. Alterations in ER homeostasis cause accumulation of misfolded/unfolded proteins in the ER. To maintain ER homeostasis, eukaryotic cells have evolved the unfolded protein response (UPR), an essential adaptive intracellular signaling pathway that responds to metabolic, oxidative stress, and inflammatory response pathways. The UPR has been implicated in a variety of diseases including metabolic disease, neurodegenerative disease, inflammatory disease, and cancer. Signaling components of the UPR are emerging as potential targets for intervention and treatment of human disease.
The unfolded protein response (UPR) is a signaling pathway required to maintain endoplasmic reticulum (ER) homeostasis and hepatic lipid metabolism. Here, we identify an essential role for the inositol-requiring transmembrane kinase/endoribonuclease 1α (IRE1α)-X-box binding protein 1 (XBP1) arm of the UPR in regulation of hepatic very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) assembly and secretion. Hepatocyte-specific deletion of Ire1α reduces lipid partitioning into the ER lumen and impairs the assembly of triglyceride (TG)-rich VLDL, but does not affect TG synthesis, de novo lipogenesis, or the synthesis or secretion of apolipoprotein B (apoB). The defect in VLDL assembly is, at least in part, due to decreased microsomal triglyceride-transfer protein (MTP) activity resulting from reduced protein disulfide isomerase (PDI) expression. Collectively, our findings reveal a key role for the IRE1α-XBP1s-PDI axis in linking ER homeostasis with regulation of VLDL production and hepatic lipid homeostasis that may provide a therapeutic target for disorders of lipid metabolism.
The unfolded protein response (UPR) responds to disruption of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) function by initiating signaling cascades that ultimately culminate in extensive transcriptional regulation. Classically, this regulation includes genes encoding ER chaperones, ER-associated degradation factors, and others involved in secretory protein folding and processing, and is carried out by the transcriptional activators that are produced as a consequence of UPR activation. However, up to half of the mRNAs regulated by ER stress are downregulated rather than upregulated, and the mechanisms linking ER stress and UPR activation to mRNA suppression are poorly understood. To begin to address this issue, we used a “bottom-up” approach to study the metabolic gene regulatory network controlled by the UPR in the liver, because ER stress in the liver leads to lipid accumulation, and fatty liver disease is the most common liver disease in the western world. qRT-PCR profiling of mouse liver mRNAs during ER stress revealed that suppression of the transcriptional regulators C/EBPα, PPARα, and PGC-1α preceded lipid accumulation, and was then followed by suppression of mRNAs encoding key enzymes involved in fatty acid oxidation and lipoprotein biogenesis and transport. Mice lacking the ER stress sensor ATF6α, which experience persistent ER stress and profound lipid accumulation during challenge, were then used as the basis for a functional genomics approach that allowed genes to be grouped into distinct expression profiles. This clustering predicted that ER stress would suppress the activity of the metabolic transcriptional regulator HNF4α—a finding subsequently confirmed by chromatin immunopreciptation at the Cebpa and Pgc1a promoters. Our results establish a framework for hepatic gene regulation during ER stress and suggest that HNF4α occupies the apex of that framework. They also provide a unique resource for the community to further explore the temporal regulation of gene expression during ER stress in vivo.
ER stress; fatty liver; functional genomics; gene regulatory network; lipid metabolism
The unfolded phrotein response is a mechanism to cope with endoplasmic reticulum stress. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Ire1 senses the stress and mediates a signaling cascade to upregulate responsive genes through an unusual HAC1 mRNA splicing. The splicing requires interconnected activity (kinase and endoribonuclease) of Ire1 to cleave HAC1 mRNA at the non-canonical splice sites before translation into Hac1 transcription factor. Analysis of the truncated kinase domain from Ire1 homologs revealed that this domain is highly conserved. Characterization by domain swapping indicated that a functional ATP/ADP binding domain is minimally required. However the overall domain compatibility is critical for eliciting its full endoribonuclease function.
Unfolded protein response; Ire1; Domain swapping; HAC1 splicing; protein kinase; endoribonuclease
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is the primary site for synthesis and folding of secreted and membrane-bound proteins. Proteins are translocated into ER lumen in an unfolded state and require protein chaperones and catalysts of protein folding to assist in proper folding. Properly folded proteins traffic from the ER to the Golgi apparatus; misfolded proteins are targeted to degradation. Unfolded protein response (UPR) is a highly regulated intracellular signaling pathway that prevents accumulation of misfolded proteins in the ER lumen. UPR provides an adaptive mechanism by which cells can augment protein folding and processing capacities of the ER. If protein misfolding is not resolved, the UPR triggers apoptotic cascades. Although the molecular mechanisms underlying ER stress-induced apoptosis are not completely understood, increasing evidence suggests that ER and mitochondria cooperate to signal cell death. Mitochondria and ER form structural and functional networks (mitochondria-associated ER membranes [MAMs]) essential to maintain cellular homeostasis and determine cell fate under various pathophysiological conditions. Regulated Ca2+ transfer from the ER to the mitochondria is important in maintaining control of prosurvival/prodeath pathways. We discuss the signaling/communication between the ER and mitochondria and focus on the role of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore in these complex processes.
If protein misfolding in the ER is not resolved by the unfolded protein response (UPR), apoptosis is triggered. The is regulated by Ca2+ transfer from the ER to the mitochondria.
iRhoms are inactive rhomboid-like pseudoproteases that lack essential catalytic residues. Although iRhoms are highly conserved in metazoan species, little is known about their function. In a recent issue of Cell, Zettl et al. (2011) show that iRhoms regulate growth factor signaling through endoplasmic reticulum-associated protein degradation (ERAD).
The unfolded protein response (UPR) is activated upon the accumulation of misfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), that are sensed by the binding immunoglobulin protein (BiP)/glucose-regulated protein 78 (GRP78). The accumulation of unfolded proteins sequesters BiP so it dissociates from three ER-transmembrane transducers leading to their activation. These transducers are inositol requiring (IRE) 1α, PKR-like ER kinase (PERK) and activating transcription factor (ATF) 6α. PERK phosphorylates eukaryotic initiation factor 2 alpha (eIF2α) resulting in global mRNA translation attenuation, and concurrently selectively increases the translation of several mRNAs, including the transcription factor ATF4, and its downstream target CHOP. IRE1α has kinase and endoribonuclease (RNase) activities. IRE1α autophosphorylation activates the RNase activity to cleave XBP1 mRNA, to produce the active transcription factor sXBP1. IRE1α activation also recruits and activates the stress kinase JNK. ATF6α transits to the Golgi compartment where it is cleaved by intramembrane proteolysis to generate a soluble active transcription factor. These UPR pathways act in concert to increase ER content, expand the ER protein folding capacity, degrade misfolded proteins, and reduce the load of new proteins entering the ER. All of these are geared toward adaptation to resolve the protein folding defect. Faced with persistent ER stress, adaptation starts to fail and apoptosis occurs, possibly mediated through calcium perturbations, reactive oxygen species, and the proapoptotic transcription factor CHOP. The UPR is activated in several liver diseases; including obesity associated fatty liver disease, viral hepatitis and alcohol-induced liver injury, all of which are associated with steatosis, raising the possibility that ER stress-dependent alteration in lipid homeostasis is the mechanism that underlies the steatosis. Hepatocyte apoptosis is a pathogenic event in several liver diseases, and may be linked to unresolved ER stress. If this is true, restoration of ER homeostasis prior to ER stress-induced cell death may provide a therapeutic rationale in these diseases. Here we discuss each branch of the UPR and how they may impact hepatocyte function in different pathologic states.
Recent clinical and experimental evidence suggests that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress contributes to the life-and-death decisions of β cells during the progression of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Although crosstalk between inflammation and ER stress has been suggested to play a significant role in β cell dysfunction and death, a key molecule connecting ER stress to inflammation has not been identified. Here we report that thioredoxin-interacting protein (TXNIP) is a critical signaling node that links ER stress and inflammation. TXNIP is induced by ER stress through the PERK and IRE1 pathways, induces IL-1β mRNA transcription, activates IL-1β production by the NLRP3 inflammasome, and mediates ER stress-mediated β cell death. Collectively, our results suggest that TXNIP is a potential therapeutic target for diabetes and ER stress-related human diseases such as Wolfram syndrome.
Protein misfolding in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) leads to cell death through PERK-mediated phosphorylation of eIF2α, although the mechanism is not understood. ChIP-seq and mRNA-seq of activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) and C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP), key transcription factors downstream of p-eIF2α, demonstrated that they interact to directly induce genes encoding protein synthesis and the unfolded protein response, but not apoptosis. Forced expression of ATF4 and CHOP increased protein synthesis and caused ATP depletion, oxidative stress and cell death. The increased protein synthesis and oxidative stress were necessary signals for cell death. We show that eIF2α-phosphorylation-attenuated protein synthesis, and not Atf4 mRNA translation, promotes cell survival. These results show that transcriptional induction through ATF4 and CHOP increases protein synthesis leading to oxidative stress and cell death. The findings suggest that limiting protein synthesis will be therapeutic for diseases caused by protein misfolding in the ER.
Given the functional importance of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), an organelle that performs folding, modification, and trafficking of secretory and membrane proteins to the Golgi compartment, the maintenance of ER homeostasis in insulin-secreting β-cells is very important. When ER homeostasis is disrupted, the ER generates adaptive signaling pathways, called the unfolded protein response (UPR), to maintain homeostasis of this organelle. However, if homeostasis fails to be restored, the ER initiates death signaling pathways. New observations suggest that both chronic hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia, known as important causative factors of type 2 diabetes (T2D), disrupt ER homeostasis to induce unresolvable UPR activation and β-cell death. This review examines how the UPR pathways, induced by high glucose and free fatty acids (FFAs), interact to disrupt ER function and cause β-cell dysfunction and death.
unfolded protein response; ER stress; free fatty acid; glucose; pancreatic β-cell
In eukaryotic cells, the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) serves many specialized functions including biosynthesis and assembly of membrane and secretory proteins, calcium storage and production of lipids and sterols. As a plant for protein folding and posttranslational modification, the ER provides stringent quality control systems to ensure that only correctly folded proteins exit the ER and unfolded or misfolded proteins are retained and ultimately degraded. Biochemical, physiological, and pathological stimuli that interfere with ER function can disrupt ER homeostasis, impose stress to the ER, and subsequently cause accumulation of unfolded or misfolded proteins in the ER lumen. To deal with accumulation of unfolded or misfolded proteins, the cell has evolved highly specific signaling pathways collectively called the “unfolded protein response” (UPR) to restore normal ER functions. However, if the overload of unfolded or misfolded proteins in the ER is not resolved, the prolonged UPR will induce ER stress-associated programmed cell death, apoptosis, to protect the organism by removing the stressed cells. In this chapter, we summarize our current understanding of UPR-induced apoptosis and various methods to detect ER stress and apoptosis in mammalian cells.
Apoptosis; Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress; Unfolded Protein Response
Expression of the Cat-1 gene (cationic amino acid transporter-1) is induced in proliferating cells and in response to a variety of stress conditions. The expression of the gene is mediated via a TATA-less promoter. In the present study we show that an Sp1 (specificity protein 1)-binding site within a GC-rich region of the Cat-1 gene controls its basal expression and is important for induction of the gene during the UPR (unfolded protein response). We have shown previously that induction of Cat-1 gene expression during the UPR requires phosphorylation of the translation initiation factor eIF2α (eukaryotic initiation factor 2α) by PERK (protein-kinase-receptor-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase), one of the signalling pathways activated during the UPR. This leads to increased translation of the transcription factor ATF4 (activating transcription factor 4). We also show that a second signalling pathway is required for sustained transcriptional induction of the Cat-1 gene during the UPR, namely activation of IRE1 (inositol-requiring enzyme 1) leading to alternative splicing of the mRNA for the transcription factor XBP1 (X-box-binding protein 1). The resulting XBP1s (spliced XBP1) can bind to an ERSE (endoplasmic-reticulum-stress-response-element), ERSE-II-like, that was identified within the Cat-1 promoter. Surprisingly, eIF2α phosphorylation is required for accumulation of XBP1s. We propose that the signalling via phosphorylated eIF2α is required for maximum induction of Cat-1 transcription during the UPR by inducing the accumulation of both ATF4 and XBP1s.
activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4); cationic amino acid transporter-1 (Cat-1); endoplasmic reticulum stress; specificity protein 1 (Sp1); unfolded protein response; X-box-binding protein 1 (XBP1)
Inhibition of protein synthesis by phosphorylation of the a subunit of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 (eIF2) at Ser51 occurs as a result of the activation of a family of kinases in response to various forms of stress. Although some consequences of eIF2α phosphorylation are cytoprotective, phosphorylation of eIF2α by RNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR) is largely proapoptotic and tumor suppressing. Phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted from chromosome 10 (PTEN) is a tumor suppressor protein that is mutated or deleted in various human cancers, with functions that are mediated through phosphatase-dependent and -independent pathways. Here, we demonstrate that the eIF2α phosphorylation pathway is downstream of PTEN. Inactivation of PTEN in human melanoma cells reduced eIF2α phosphorylation, whereas reconstitution of PTEN-null human glioblastoma or prostate cancer cells with either wild-type PTEN or phosphatase-defective mutants of PTEN induced PKR activity and eIF2α phosphorylation. The antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects of PTEN were compromised in mouse embryonic fibroblasts that lacked PKR or contained a phosphorylation-defective variant of eIF2α. Induction of the pathway leading to phosphorylation of eIF2α required an intact PDZ-binding motif in PTEN. These findings establish a link between tumor suppression by PTEN and inhibition of protein synthesis that is independent of PTEN's effects on phosphoinositide 3′-kinase signaling.
Orphan nuclear receptor ERRγ is a member of nuclear receptor superfamily that regulates several important cellular processes including hepatic glucose and alcohol metabolism. However, mechanistic understanding of transcriptional regulation of the ERRγ gene remains to be elucidated. Here, we report that activating transcription factor 6α (ATF6α), an endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-membrane–bound basic leucine zipper (bZip) transcription factor, directly regulates ERRγ gene expression in response to ER stress. ATF6α binds to ATF6α responsive element in the ERRγ promoter. The transcriptional coactivator peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-α (PGC-1α) is required for this transactivation. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay confirmed the binding of both ATF6α and PGC1α on the ERRγ promoter. ChIP assay demonstrated histone H3 and H4 acetylation occurs at the ATF6α and PGC1α binding site. Of interest, ERRγ along with PGC1α induce ATF6α gene transcription upon ER stress. ERRγ binds to an ERRγ responsive element in the ATF6α promoter. ChIP assay confirmed that both ERRγ and PGC1α bind to a site in the ATF6α promoter that exhibits histone H3 and H4 acetylation. Overall, for the first time our data show a novel pathway of cross talk between nuclear receptors and ER-membrane–bound transcription factors and suggest a positive feed-forward loop regulates ERRγ and ATF6α gene transcription.
IRE1/XBP1-mediated signaling represents the most conserved branch of the unfolded protein response. A series of recent studies reveal novel and potentially ancient roles for this pathway in the coordination of metabolic and immune responses.
CREBH is a liver-specific transcription factor that is localized in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane. Our previous work demonstrated that CREBH is activated by ER stress or inflammatory stimuli to induce an acute-phase hepatic inflammation. Here we demonstrate that CREBH is a key metabolic regulator of hepatic lipogenesis, fatty acid (FA) oxidation, and lipolysis under metabolic stress. Saturated FA, insulin signals, or an atherogenic high-fat diet can induce CREBH activation in the liver. Under the normal chow diet, CrebH knockout mice display a modest decrease in hepatic lipid contents but an increase in plasma triglycerides (TG). After feeding an atherogenic high-fat diet, massive accumulation of hepatic lipid metabolites and significant increase in plasma TG levels were observed in the CrebH knockout mice. Along with the hypertriglyceridemia phenotype, the CrebH null mice displayed significantly reduced body weight gain, diminished abdominal fat, and increased non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) activities under the atherogenic high-fat diet. Gene expression analysis and chromatin-immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay indicated that CREBH is required to activate expression of the genes encoding functions involved in de novo lipogenesis, TG and cholesterol biosynthesis, FA elongation and oxidation, lipolysis, and lipid transport. Supporting the role of CREBH in lipogenesis and lipolysis, forced expression of an activated form of CREBH protein in the liver significantly increases accumulation of hepatic lipids but reduces plasma TG levels in mice. All together our study shows that CREBH plays a key role in maintaining lipid homeostasis by regulating expression of the genes involved in hepatic lipogenesis, FA oxidation, and lipolysis under metabolic stress. The identification of CREBH as a stress-inducible metabolic regulator has important implications in the understanding and treatment of metabolic disease.
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is the primary site for folding and quality control for proteins destined to the cell surface and intracellular organelles. A variety of cellular insults alter ER homeostasis to disrupt protein folding, cause the accumulation of misfolded proteins, and activate an autophagic response. However, the molecular signaling pathways required for ER stress-induced autophagy are largely unknown. Recently, we discovered that a novel-type protein kinase C family member (PKCθ) is required for ER stress-induced autophagy. We show that ER stress, in a Ca2+-dependent manner, induces PKCθ phosphorylation within the activation loop and localization with LC3-II in punctate cytoplasmic structures. Pharmacological inhibition, siRNA-mediated knockdown, or transdominant-negative mutant expression of PKCθ block the ER stress-induced autophagic response. PKCθ activation is not required for autophagy induced by amino acid starvation, and PKCθ activation in response to ER stress does not require either the mTOR kinase or the unfolded protein response signaling pathways. Herein, we review and discuss the significance of these findings with respect to regulation of autophagy in response to ER stress.
unfolded protein response; protein kinase Cθ; calcium; autophagy; endoplasmic reticulum; autophagosome
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is the site where proteins enter the secretory pathway. Proteins are translocated into the ER lumen in an unfolded state and require protein chaperones and catalysts of protein folding to attain their final appropriate conformation. A sensitive surveillance mechanism exists to prevent misfolded proteins from transiting the secretory pathway and ensures that persistently misfolded proteins are directed towards a degradative pathway. In addition, those processes that prevent accumulation of unfolded proteins in the ER lumen are highly regulated by an intracellular signaling pathway known as the unfolded protein response (UPR). The UPR provides a mechanism by which cells can rapidly adapt to alterations in client protein-folding load in the ER lumen by expanding the capacity for protein folding. In addition, a variety of insults that disrupt protein folding in the ER lumen also activate the UPR. These include changes in intralumenal calcium, altered glycosylation, nutrient deprivation, pathogen infection, expression of folding-defective proteins, and changes in redox status. Persistent protein misfolding initiates apoptotic cascades that are now known to play fundamental roles in the pathogenesis of multiple human diseases including diabetes, atherosclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases.
Endoplasmic reticulum; unfolded protein response; ER; secretory pathway; apoptosis
Heterologous expression of Factor VIII (FVIII) is about 2 to 3 orders of magnitude lower than similarly sized proteins. Bioengineering strategies aimed at different structural and biochemical attributes of FVIII have been successful in enhancing its expression levels.
Disulfide bonds are vital to the proper folding, secretion and stability of most secretory proteins. In an effort to explore additional targeted bioengineering approaches, the role of disulfide bonds in FVIII secretion and function was probed in this study.
Methods and Results
Single and paired cysteine mutants were generated by substituting with serine or glycine residues and analyzed by transient transfection into COS-1 and CHO cells. Seven of the eight disulfide bonds in FVIII were found to be indispensable for proper secretion and function. However, elimination of the disulfide bond formed by C1899 and C1903 within the conserved A3 domain improved the secretion of FVIII. The addition of the C1899G/C1903G mutations to a previously described FVIII variant, 226/N6, with high secretion efficiency increased its secretion by 2.2-fold. Finally, the addition of the A1-domain mutation, F309S in conjunction with the disulfide mutation had an additive effect resulting in a net improvement in secretion of between 35–45 fold higher than wild type FVIII in CHO cells.
Such combined targeted bioengineering strategies may facilitate more efficient production of recombinant FVIII toward low cost factor replacement therapy for hemophilia A.
bioengineering; disulfide bonds; factor VIII; hemophilia A; secretion
B lymphocyte differentiation is coordinated with the induction of high-level Ig secretion and expansion of the secretory pathway. Upon accumulation of unfolded proteins in the lumen of the ER, cells activate an intracellular signaling pathway termed the unfolded protein response (UPR). Two major proximal sensors of the UPR are inositol-requiring enzyme 1α (IRE1α), an ER transmembrane protein kinase/endoribonuclease, and ER-resident eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α (eIF2α) kinase (PERK). To elucidate whether the UPR plays an important role in lymphopoiesis, we carried out reconstitution of recombinase-activating gene 2–deficient (rag2–/–) mice with hematopoietic cells defective in either IRE1α- or PERK-mediated signaling. IRE1α-deficient (ire1α–/–) HSCs can proliferate and give rise to pro–B cells that home to bone marrow. However, IRE1α, but not its catalytic activities, is required for Ig gene rearrangement and production of B cell receptors (BCRs). Analysis of rag2–/– mice transplanted with IRE1α trans-dominant-negative bone marrow cells demonstrated an additional requirement for IRE1α in B lymphopoiesis: both the IRE1α kinase and RNase catalytic activities are required to splice the mRNA encoding X-box–binding protein 1 (XBP1) for terminal differentiation of mature B cells into antibody-secreting plasma cells. Furthermore, UPR-mediated translational control through eIF2α phosphorylation is not required for B lymphocyte maturation and/or plasma cell differentiation. These results suggest specific requirements of the IRE1α-mediated UPR subpathway in the early and late stages of B lymphopoiesis.
The accumulation of unfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) triggers transcriptional and translational reprogramming. This unfolded protein response (UPR) protects cells during transient stress and can lead to apoptosis during prolonged stress. Two key mediators of the UPR are PKR-like ER kinase (PERK), which phosphorylates the α subunit of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 (eIF2α), resulting in decreased protein synthesis, and the α subunit of inositol-requiring enzyme 1 (IRE1α), which initiates cytoplasmic splicing of the mRNA encoding the transcription factor X-box binding protein 1 (XBP1). XBP1 induces transcription of genes involved in protein quality control. This report describes cross talk between these two pathways: phosphorylation of eIF2α was required for maximal induction of spliced XBP1 (XBP1s) protein levels via a mechanism that involved stabilization of XBP1s mRNA. By using mouse embryo fibroblasts deficient in UPR signaling pathways, we demonstrate that stress-induced stabilization of XBP1s mRNA requires cytoplasmic splicing of the mRNA and inhibition of its translation. Because the XBP1s protein promotes transcription of its own gene, the UPR-induced mRNA stabilization is part of a positive feedback loop that induces XBP1s protein accumulation and transcription of target genes during stress. We propose a model in which eIF2α phosphorylation-mediated control of mRNA turnover is a molecular switch that regulates the stress response transcription program and the ER's capacity for protein folding during stress.