GCN-2 dependent inhibition of protein synthesis activates osmosensitive gene transcription via WNK and Ste20 kinase signaling

Elaine Choung Hee Lee, Kevin Strange

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Increased gpdh-1 transcription is required for accumulation of the organic osmolyte glycerol and survival of Caenorhabditis elegans during hypertonic stress. Our previous work has shown that regulators of gpdh-1 (rgpd) gene knockdown constitutively activates gpdh-1 expression. Fifty-five rgpd genes play essential roles in translation suggesting that inhibition of protein synthesis is an important signal for regulating osmoprotective gene transcription. We demonstrate here that translation is reduced dramatically by hypertonic stress or knockdown of rgpd genes encoding aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases and eukaryotic translation initiation factors (eIFs). Toxin-induced inhibition of translation also activates gpdh-1 expression. Hypertonicityinduced translation inhibition is mediated by general control nonderepressible (GCN)-2 kinase signaling and eIF-2α phosphoryation. Loss of gcn-1 or gcn-2 function prevents eIF-2α phosphorylation, completely blocks reductions in translation, and inhibits gpdh-1 transcription. gpdh-1 expression is regulated by the highly conserved with-no-lysine kinase (WNK) and Ste20 kinases WNK-1 and GCK-3, which function in the GCN-2 signaling pathway downstream from eIF-2α phosphorylation. Our previous work has shown that hypertonic stress causes rapid and dramatic protein damage in C. elegans and that inhibition of translation reduces this damage. The current studies demonstrate that reduced translation also serves as an essential signal for activation of WNK-1/GCK-3 kinase signaling and subsequent transcription of gpdh-1 and possibly other osmoprotective genes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • C. elegans
  • Hypertonic stress
  • Organic osmolytes
  • Osmoregulation

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