Autophosphorylation of heme-regulated eukaryotic initiation factor 2α kinase and the role of the modification in catalysis

FEBS J. 2011 Apr;278(6):918-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2011.08007.x. Epub 2011 Feb 3.


Heme-regulated eukaryotic initiation factor 2α (eIF2α) kinase (HRI), functions in response to heme shortage in reticulocytes and aids in the maintenance of a heme:globin ratio of 1:1. Under normal conditions, heme binds to HRI and blocks its function. However, during heme shortage, heme dissociates from the protein and autophosphorylation subsequently occurs. Autophosphorylation comprises a preliminary critical step before the execution of the intrinsic function of HRI; specifically, phosphorylation of Ser-51 of eIF2α to inhibit translation of the globin protein. The present study indicates that dephosphorylated mouse HRI exhibits strong intramolecular interactions (between the N-terminal and C-terminal domains) compared to phosphorylated HRI. It is therefore suggested that autophosphorylation reduces the intramolecular interaction, which induces irreversible catalytic flow to the intrinsic eIF2α kinase activity after heme dissociates from the protein. With the aid of MS, we identified 33 phosphorylated sites in mouse HRI overexpressed in Escherichia coli. Phosphorylated sites at Ser, Thr and Tyr were predominantly localized within the kinase insertion region (16 sites) and kinase domain (12 sites), whereas the N-terminal domain contained five sites. We further generated 30 enzymes with mutations at the phosphorylated residues and examined their catalytic activities. The activities of Y193F, T485A and T490A mutants were significantly lower than that of wild-type protein, whereas the other mutant proteins displayed essentially similar activity. Accordingly, we suggest that Tyr193, Thr485 and Thr490 are essential residues in the catalysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Catalysis / drug effects
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Phosphorylation
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Threonine / metabolism
  • Tyrosine / metabolism
  • eIF-2 Kinase / genetics
  • eIF-2 Kinase / metabolism*


  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Threonine
  • Tyrosine
  • eIF-2 Kinase