Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

Tryptophan depletion and the kinase GCN2 mediate IFN-γ-induced autophagy.

PMID 22896630


IFN-γ is a master regulator of the immune responses that occur in the transplanted kidney, acting both on the immune system and on the graft itself. The cellular responses to IFN-γ are complex, and emerging evidence suggests that IFN-γ may regulate autophagic functions. Conversely, autophagy modulates innate and adaptive immune functions in various contexts. In this study, we identify a novel mechanism by which IFN-γ activates autophagy in human kidney epithelial cells and provide new insights into how autophagy regulates immune functions in response to IFN-γ. Our results indicate that IFN-γ promotes tryptophan depletion, activates the eIF2α kinase general control nonderepressible-2 (GCN2), and leads to an increase in the autophagic flux. Further, tryptophan supplementation and RNA interference directed against GCN2 inhibited IFN-γ-induced autophagy. This process is of functional relevance because autophagy regulates the secretion of inflammatory cytokines and growth factors by human kidney epithelial cells in response to IFN-γ. These findings assign to IFN-γ a novel function in the regulation of autophagy, which, in turn, modulates IFN-γ-induced secretion of inflammatory cytokines.