Science signaling

Phosphorylation of eIF2α triggered by mTORC1 inhibition and PP6C activation is required for autophagy and is aberrant in PP6C-mutated melanoma.

PMID 25759478


Amino acid deprivation promotes the inhibition of the kinase complex mTORC1 (mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1) and activation of the kinase GCN2 (general control nonrepressed 2). Signaling pathways downstream of both kinases have been thought to independently induce autophagy. We showed that these two amino acid-sensing systems are linked. We showed that pharmacological inhibition of mTORC1 led to activation of GCN2 and phosphorylation of the eukaryotic initiation factor 2α (eIF2α) in a mechanism dependent on the catalytic subunit of protein phosphatase 6 (PP6C). Autophagy induced by pharmacological inhibition of mTORC1 required PP6C, GCN2, and eIF2α phosphorylation. Although some of the PP6C mutants found in melanoma did not form a strong complex with PP6 regulatory subunits and were rapidly degraded, these mutants paradoxically stabilized PP6C encoded by the wild-type allele and increased eIF2α phosphorylation. Furthermore, these PP6C mutations were associated with increased autophagy in vitro and in human melanoma samples. Thus, these data showed that GCN2 activation and phosphorylation of eIF2α in response to mTORC1 inhibition are necessary for autophagy. Additionally, we described a role for PP6C in this process and provided a mechanism for PP6C mutations associated with melanoma.