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Neuronal Proteostasis is mediated by the switch-like expression of Heme-regulated Kinase 1, acting as both a sensor and effector

By Beatriz Alvarez-Castelao, Susanne tom Dieck, Claudia M. Fusco, Paul G. Donlin-Asp, Julio D. Perez, Erin Schuman

Posted 07 Nov 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/833178

All cells, including neurons, have regulatory feedback mechanisms that couple protein synthesis and degradation to maintain and optimize protein concentrations in the face of intra- and extracellular perturbations. We examined the feedback between the major protein degradation pathway, the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS), and protein synthesis in neurons. When protein degradation by the UPS was inhibited we observed a coordinate dramatic reduction in nascent protein synthesis in both neuronal cell bodies and dendrites. The mechanism for translation inhibition involved the phosphorylation of eIF2a, surprisingly mediated by eIF2a kinase 1, or heme-regulated kinase inhibitor (HRI), known for its sensitivity to heme levels in erythrocyte precursors (Han et al., 2001). Under basal conditions, neuronal expression of HRI is barely detectable. Following proteasome inhibition, HRI protein levels increase owing to stabilization of the short-lived HRI protein and enhanced translation via the increased availability of tRNAs for rare codons. Once expressed, HRI is constitutively active in neurons because endogenous heme levels are so low; HRI activity results in eIF2a phosphorylation and the resulting inhibition of translation. These data demonstrate a novel role for HRI in neurons, acting as an -immediate early protein- that senses and responds to compromised function of the proteasome to restore proteostasis.

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