The PKR-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK) arm of the Integrated Stress Response (ISR) is implicated in neurodegenerative disease, although the regulators and consequences of PERK activation following neuronal injury are poorly understood. Here we show that PERK signaling is a component of the mouse MAP kinase neuronal stress response controlled by the Dual Leucine Zipper Kinase (DLK) and contributes to DLK-mediated neurodegeneration. We find that DLK-activating insults ranging from nerve injury to neurotrophin deprivation result in both c-Jun N-terminal Kinase (JNK) signaling and the PERK- and ISR-dependent upregulation of the Activating Transcription Factor 4 (ATF4). Disruption of PERK signaling delays neurodegeneration without reducing JNK signaling. Furthermore, DLK is both sufficient for PERK activation and necessary for engaging the ISR subsequent to JNK-mediated retrograde injury signaling. These findings identify DLK as a central regulator of not only JNK but also PERK stress signaling in neurons, with both pathways contributing to neurodegeneration.
Keywords: apoptosis; axonal injury; cell biology; mouse; neurodegeneration; neuroscience; optic nerve; stress response; unfolded protein response.