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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Dec;1038:60-74.

Study of translational control of eukaryotic gene expression using yeast.

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  • 1Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Development, Division of Intramural Research, NICHD, NIH, Bldg. 18T, Rm. 106, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA. ahinnebusch@nih.gov


Eukaryotic cells respond to starvation by decreasing the rate of general protein synthesis while inducing translation of specific mRNAs encoding transcription factors GCN4 (yeast) or ATF4 (humans). Both responses are elicited by phosphorylation of translation initiation factor 2 (eIF2) and the attendant inhibition of its nucleotide exchange factor eIF2B-decreasing the binding to 40S ribosomes of methionyl initiator tRNA in the ternary complex (TC) with eIF2 and GTP. The reduction in TC levels enables scanning ribosomes to bypass the start codons of upstream open reading frames in the GCN4 mRNA leader and initiate translation at the authentic GCN4 start codon. We exploited the fact that GCN4 translation is a sensitive reporter of defects in TC recruitment to identify the catalytic and regulatory subunits of eIF2B. More recently, we implicated the C-terminal domain of eIF1A in 40S-binding of TC in vivo. Interestingly, we found that TC resides in a multifactor complex (MFC) with eIF3, eIF1, and the GTPase-activating protein for eIF2, known as eIF5. Our biochemical and genetic analyses indicate that physical interactions between MFC components enhance TC binding to 40S subunits and are required for wild-type translational control of GCN4. MFC integrity and eIF3 function also contribute to post-assembly steps in the initiation pathway that impact GCN4 expression. Thus, apart from its critical role in the starvation response, GCN4 regulation is a valuable tool for dissecting the contributions of multiple translation factors in the eukaryotic initiation pathway.

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