Physiological Genomics

HepG2/C3A cells respond to cysteine deprivation by induction of the amino acid deprivation/integrated stress response pathway

Jeong-In Lee, John E. Dominy Jr., Angelos K. Sikalidis, Lawrence L. Hirschberger, Wei Wang, Martha H. Stipanuk


To further define genes that are differentially expressed during cysteine deprivation and to evaluate the roles of amino acid deprivation vs. oxidative stress in the response to cysteine deprivation, we assessed gene expression in human hepatoma cells cultured in complete or cysteine-deficient medium. Overall, C3A cells responded to cysteine deprivation by activation of the eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF)2α kinase-mediated integrated stress response to inhibit global protein synthesis; increased expression of genes containing amino acid response elements (ASNS, ATF3, CEBPB, SLC7A11, and TRIB3); increased expression of genes for amino acid transporters (SLC7A11, SLC1A4, and SLC3A2), aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (CARS), and, to a limited extent, amino acid metabolism (ASNS and CTH); increased expression of genes that act to suppress growth (STC2, FOXO3A, GADD45A, LNK, and INHBE); and increased expression of several enzymes that favor glutathione synthesis and maintenance of protein thiol groups (GCLC, GCLM, SLC7A11, and TXNRD1). Although GCLC, GCLM, SLC7A11, HMOX, and TXNRD1 were upregulated, most genes known to be upregulated via oxidative stress were not affected by cysteine deprivation. Because most genes known to be upregulated in response to eIF2α phosphorylation and activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) synthesis were differentially expressed in response to cysteine deprivation, it is likely that many responses to cysteine deprivation are mediated, at least in part, by the general control nondepressible 2 (GCN2)/ATF4-dependent integrated stress response. This conclusion was supported by the observation of similar differential expression of a subset of genes in response to leucine deprivation. A consequence of sulfur amino acid restriction appears to be the upregulation of the cellular capacity to cope with oxidative and chemical stresses via the integrated stress response.

  • general control nondepressible 2
  • eukaryotic initiation factor 2α
  • activating transcription factor 4
  • oxidative stress
  • sulfur amino acid
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