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J Cell Biol. 2004 Oct 11;167(1):27-33.

Translation reinitiation at alternative open reading frames regulates gene expression in an integrated stress response.

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Department of Cell Biology, School of Medicine, New York University, New York, NY 10016, USA.


Stress-induced eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 (eIF2) alpha phosphorylation paradoxically increases translation of the metazoan activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4), activating the integrated stress response (ISR), a pro-survival gene expression program. Previous studies implicated the 5' end of the ATF4 mRNA, with its two conserved upstream ORFs (uORFs), in this translational regulation. Here, we report on mutation analysis of the ATF4 mRNA which revealed that scanning ribosomes initiate translation efficiently at both uORFs and ribosomes that had translated uORF1 efficiently reinitiate translation at downstream AUGs. In unstressed cells, low levels of eIF2alpha phosphorylation favor early capacitation of such reinitiating ribosomes directing them to the inhibitory uORF2, which precludes subsequent translation of ATF4 and represses the ISR. In stressed cells high levels of eIF2alpha phosphorylation delays ribosome capacitation and favors reinitiation at ATF4 over the inhibitory uORF2. These features are common to regulated translation of GCN4 in yeast. The metazoan ISR thus resembles the yeast general control response both in its target genes and its mechanistic details.

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