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Cell. 1992 Feb 7;68(3):585-96.

Phosphorylation of initiation factor 2 alpha by protein kinase GCN2 mediates gene-specific translational control of GCN4 in yeast.

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Section on Molecular Genetics of Lower Eukaryotes, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


We show that phosphorylation of the alpha subunit of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 (eIF-2) by the protein kinase GCN2 mediates translational control of the yeast transcriptional activator GCN4. In vitro, GCN2 specifically phosphorylates the alpha subunit of rabbit or yeast eIF-2. In vivo, phosphorylation of eIF-2 alpha increases in response to amino acid starvation, which is dependent on GCN2. Substitution of Ser-51 with alanine eliminates phosphorylation of eIF-2 alpha by GCN2 in vivo and in vitro and abolishes increased expression of GCN4 and amino acid biosynthetic genes under its control in amino acid-starved cells. The Asp-51 substitution mimics the phosphorylated state and derepresses GCN4 in the absence of GCN2. Thus, an established mechanism for regulating total protein synthesis in mammalian cells mediates gene-specific translational control in yeast.

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