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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Jan 8;99(1):190-5. Epub 2001 Dec 26.

Regulation of starvation- and virus-induced autophagy by the eIF2alpha kinase signaling pathway.

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Department of Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY 10032, USA.


The eIF2alpha kinases are a family of evolutionarily conserved serine/threonine kinases that regulate stress-induced translational arrest. Here, we demonstrate that the yeast eIF2alpha kinase, GCN2, the target phosphorylation site of Gcn2p, Ser-51 of eIF2alpha, and the eIF2alpha-regulated transcriptional transactivator, GCN4, are essential for another fundamental stress response, starvation-induced autophagy. The mammalian IFN-inducible eIF2alpha kinase, PKR, rescues starvation-induced autophagy in GCN2-disrupted yeast, and pkr null and Ser-51 nonphosphorylatable mutant eIF2alpha murine embryonic fibroblasts are defective in autophagy triggered by herpes simplex virus infection. Furthermore, PKR and eIF2alpha Ser-51-dependent autophagy is antagonized by the herpes simplex virus neurovirulence protein, ICP34.5. Thus, autophagy is a novel evolutionarily conserved function of the eIF2alpha kinase pathway that is targeted by viral virulence gene products.

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