Inhibitory sequences in the N-terminus of the double-stranded-RNA-dependent protein kinase, PKR, are important for regulating phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor 2α (eIF2α)

K. M. Vattem, K. A. Staschke, S. Zhu, R. C. Wek

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24 Scopus citations


During viral infection, phosphorylation of the α subunit of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF2α) by the interferon-induced RNA-dependent protein kinase, PKR, leads to inhibition of translation initiation and viral proliferation. Activation of PKR is mediated by association of virally encoded double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) with two dsRNA binding domains (dsRBDs) located in the N-terminus of PKR. To better understand the molecular mechanisms regulating PKR, we characterized the activities of wild-type and mutant versions of human PKR expressed and purified from yeast. The catalytic rate of eIF2α phosphorylation by our purified PKR was increased in response to dsRNA, but not single-stranded RNA or DNA, consistent with the properties previously described for PKR purified from mammalian sources. While both dsRBD1 and dsRBD2 were required for activation of PKR by dsRNA, only deletion of dsRBD1 severely reduced the basal eIF2α kinase activity. Removal of as few as 25 residues at the C-terminal junction of dsRBD2 dramatically increased eIF2α kinase activity and characterization of larger deletions that included dsRBD1 demonstrated that removal of these negative-acting sequences could bypass the dsRBD1 requirement for in vitro phosphorylation of eIF2α. Heparin, a known in vitro activator of PKR, enhanced eIF2α phosphorylation by PKR mutants lacking their entire N-terminal sequences, including the dsRBDs. The results indicate that induction of PKR activity is mediated by multiple mechanisms, one of which involves release of inhibition by negative-acting sequences in PKR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1143-1153
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Biochemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2001



  • eIF2
  • Inhibitory sequences
  • PKR
  • Translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry

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