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PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e32500. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032500. Epub 2012 Mar 5.

eIF2α kinases regulate development through the BzpR transcription factor in Dictyostelium discoideum.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America.



A major mechanism of translational regulation in response to a variety of stresses is mediated by phosphorylation of eIF2α to reduce delivery of initiator tRNAs to scanning ribosomes. For some mRNAs, often encoding a bZIP transcription factor, eIF2α phosphorylation leads to enhanced translation due to delayed reinitiation at upstream open reading frames. Dictyostelium cells possess at least three eIF2α kinases that regulate various portions of the starvation-induced developmental program. Cells possessing an eIF2α that cannot be phosphorylated (BS167) show abnormalities in growth and development. We sought to identify a bZIP protein in Dictyostelium whose production is controlled by the eIF2α regulatory system.


Cells disrupted in the bzpR gene had similar developmental defects as BS167 cells, including small entities, stalk defects, and reduced spore viability. β-galactosidase production was used to examine translation from mRNA containing the bzpR 5' UTR. While protein production was readily apparent and regulated temporally and spatially in wild type cells, essentially no β-galactosidase was produced in developing BS167 cells even though the lacZ mRNA levels were the same as those in wild type cells. Also, no protein production was observed in strains lacking IfkA or IfkB eIF2α kinases. GFP fusions, with appropriate internal controls, were used to directly demonstrate that the bzpR 5' UTR, possessing 7 uORFs, suppressed translation by 12 fold. Suppression occurred even when all but one uORF was deleted, and translational suppression was removed when the ATG of the single uORF was mutated.


The findings indicate that BzpR regulates aspects of the development program in Dictyostelium, serving as a downstream effector of eIF2α phosphorylation. Its production is temporally and spatially regulated by eIF2α phosphorylation by IfkA and IfkB and through the use of uORFs within the bzpR 5' UTR.

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