Partial restoration of protein synthesis rates by the small molecule ISRIB prevents neurodegeneration without pancreatic toxicity

Cell Death Dis. 2015 Mar 5;6(3):e1672. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2015.49.


Activation of the PERK branch of the unfolded protein response (UPR) in response to protein misfolding within the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) results in the transient repression of protein synthesis, mediated by the phosphorylation of the alpha subunit of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF2α). This is part of a wider integrated physiological response to maintain proteostasis in the face of ER stress, the dysregulation of which is increasingly associated with a wide range of diseases, particularly neurodegenerative disorders. In prion-diseased mice, persistently high levels of eIF2α cause sustained translational repression leading to catastrophic reduction of critical proteins, resulting in synaptic failure and neuronal loss. We previously showed that restoration of global protein synthesis using the PERK inhibitor GSK2606414 was profoundly neuroprotective, preventing clinical disease in prion-infected mice. However, this occured at the cost of toxicity to secretory tissue, where UPR activation is essential to healthy functioning. Here we show that pharmacological modulation of eIF2α-P-mediated translational inhibition can be achieved to produce neuroprotection without pancreatic toxicity. We found that treatment with the small molecule ISRIB, which restores translation downstream of eIF2α, conferred neuroprotection in prion-diseased mice without adverse effects on the pancreas. Critically, ISRIB treatment resulted in only partial restoration of global translation rates, as compared with the complete restoration of protein synthesis seen with GSK2606414. ISRIB likely provides sufficient rates of protein synthesis for neuronal survival, while allowing some residual protective UPR function in secretory tissue. Thus, fine-tuning the extent of UPR inhibition and subsequent translational de-repression uncouples neuroprotective effects from pancreatic toxicity. The data support the pursuit of this approach to develop new treatments for a range of neurodegenerative disorders that are currently incurable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetamides / adverse effects
  • Acetamides / therapeutic use*
  • Activating Transcription Factor 4 / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Cyclohexylamines / adverse effects
  • Cyclohexylamines / therapeutic use*
  • Immunoblotting
  • Mice
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Pancreas / drug effects
  • Pancreas / metabolism*
  • Protein Biosynthesis / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • 2-(4-chlorophenoxy)-N-(4-(2-(4-chlorophenoxy)acetamido)cyclohexyl)acetamide
  • Acetamides
  • Cyclohexylamines
  • Activating Transcription Factor 4