Recognizing a deficiency of indispensable amino acids (IAAs) for protein synthesis is vital for dietary selection in metazoans, including humans. Cells in the brain's anterior piriform cortex (APC) are sensitive to IAA deficiency, signaling diet rejection and foraging for complementary IAA sources, but the mechanism is unknown. Here we report that the mechanism for recognizing IAA-deficient foods follows the conserved general control (GC) system, wherein uncharged transfer RNA induces phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF2) via the GC nonderepressing 2 (GCN2) kinase. Thus, a basic mechanism of nutritional stress management functions in mammalian brain to guide food selection for survival.
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