In the parasite Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of human African sleeping sickness, all mRNAs are trans-spliced to generate a common 59 exon derived from the spliced leader (SL) RNA. Perturbations of protein translocation across the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) induce the spliced leader RNA silencing (SLS) pathway. SLS activation is mediated by a serine-threonine kinase, PK3, which translocates from the cytosolic face of the ER to the nucleus, where it phosphorylates the TATA-binding protein TRF4, leading to the shutoff of SL RNA transcription, followed by induction of programmed cell death. Here, we demonstrate that SLS is also induced by depletion of the essential ER-resident chaperones BiP and calreticulin, ER oxidoreductin 1 (ERO1), and the Golgi complex-localized quiescin sulfhydryl oxidase (QSOX). Most strikingly, silencing of Rhomboid-like 1 (TIMRHOM1), involved in mitochondrial protein import, also induces SLS. The PK3 kinase, which integrates SLS signals, is modified by phosphorylation on multiple sites. To determine which of the phosphorylation events activate PK3, several individual mutations or their combination were generated. These mutations failed to completely eliminate the phosphorylation or translocation of the kinase to the nucleus. The structures of PK3 kinase and its ATP binding domain were therefore modeled. A conserved phenylalanine at position 771 was proposed to interact with ATP, and the PK3F771L mutation completely eliminated phosphorylation under SLS, suggesting that the activation involves most if not all of the phosphorylation sites. The study suggests that the SLS occurs broadly in response to failures in protein sorting, folding, or modification across multiple compartments.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by grants from the Israel Science Foundation to S.M. and D.F. S.M. holds the David and Inez Myers Chair in RNA Silencing of Diseases.
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- PK3-PERK homologue
- Spliced leader RNA silencing