Novel mechanisms of eIF2B action and regulation by eIF2alpha phoshorylation
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Eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 (eIF2) is a heterotrimeric G-protein that plays a critical role in protein synthesis regulation. eIF2-GTP binds Met-tRNAi to form the eIF2-GTP:Met-tRNAi ternary complex (TC), that is recruited to the 40S ribosomal subunit. Following GTP hydrolysis, eIF2-GDP is recycled back to TC by its guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF), eIF2B. Phosphorylation of the eIF2α subunit in response to various cellular stresses converts eIF2 into a competitive inhibitor of eIF2B, triggering the integrated stress response. Dysregulation of eIF2B activity is associated with a number of pathologies, including neurodegenerative diseases, metabolic disorders, and cancer. However, despite decades of research, the underlying molecular mechanisms remain unknown. This is due in large part to the absence of a structural understanding of the eIF2B assembly and of the eIF2B:eIF2 interaction. Common methods, such as yeast genetics, have been unable to unambiguously determine these mechanisms. Meanwhile, expanded interest in the integrated stress response has uncovered a diverse array of pathologies for which therapeutic modulation of the eIF2B:eIF2 interaction may ameliorate or overcome disease states. In this dissertation, a combination of structural and biochemical techniques is employed to elucidate the mechanisms of eIF2B action and its regulation by eIF2α phosphorylation. The aim is to provide a direct, unambiguous, structural understanding of eIF2B assembly and of eIF2B’s interactions with phosphorylated and unphosphorylated eIF2α. The work described here was among the first to challenge the widely held notion of a pentameric eIF2B assembly, as eventually confirmed by the recent publication of eIF2B’s crystal structure. The work further aims to overturn another long-standing assumption regarding the nature of inhibition of eIF2B activity: that competitive inhibition is mediated by a “direct effect” of the negatively charged phosphate group on the eIF2α:eIF2B interaction. Instead, we present evidence for an “indirect effect,” whereby phosphorylation disrupts a novel intramolecular interface within eIF2α, exposing an eIF2α surface that binds eIF2B and is responsible for inhibition of eIF2B. In the end, we combine a structural model of the eIF2B:eIF2 complex with our novel mechanism of inhibition, placing them within the larger thermodynamic context of eIF2-GDP recycling by eIF2B.