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Mol Cell Biol. 2009 Dec;29(24):6515-26. doi: 10.1128/MCB.00489-09. Epub 2009 Oct 12.

Identification of a novel amino acid response pathway triggering ATF2 phosphorylation in mammals.

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  • 1UMR 1019, Unité Nutrition Humaine, INRA de Theix, 63122 St. Genès Champanelle, France.


It has been well established that amino acid availability can control gene expression. Previous studies have shown that amino acid depletion induces transcription of the ATF3 (activation transcription factor 3) gene through an amino acid response element (AARE) located in its promoter. This event requires phosphorylation of activating transcription factor 2 (ATF2), a constitutive AARE-bound factor. To identify the signaling cascade leading to phosphorylation of ATF2 in response to amino acid starvation, we used an individual gene knockdown approach by small interfering RNA transfection. We identified the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) module MEKK1/MKK7/JNK2 as the pathway responsible for ATF2 phosphorylation on the threonine 69 (Thr69) and Thr71 residues. Then, we progressed backwards up the signal transduction pathway and showed that the GTPase Rac1/Cdc42 and the protein Galpha12 control the MAPK module, ATF2 phosphorylation, and AARE-dependent transcription. Taken together, our data reveal a new signaling pathway activated by amino acid starvation leading to ATF2 phosphorylation and subsequently positively affecting the transcription of amino acid-regulated genes.

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