Dietary Sulfur Amino Acid Restriction and the Integrated Stress Response: Mechanistic Insights

Nutrients. 2019 Jun 15;11(6):1349. doi: 10.3390/nu11061349.


Dietary sulfur amino acid restriction, also referred to as methionine restriction, increases food intake and energy expenditure and alters body composition in rodents, resulting in improved metabolic health and a longer lifespan. Among the known nutrient-responsive signaling pathways, the evolutionary conserved integrated stress response (ISR) is a lesser-understood candidate in mediating the hormetic effects of dietary sulfur amino acid restriction (SAAR). A key feature of the ISR is the concept that a family of protein kinases phosphorylates eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (eIF2), dampening general protein synthesis to conserve cellular resources. This slowed translation simultaneously allows for preferential translation of genes with special sequence features in the 5' leader. Among this class of mRNAs is activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4), an orchestrator of transcriptional control during nutrient stress. Several ATF4 gene targets help execute key processes affected by SAAR such as lipid metabolism, the transsulfuration pathway, and antioxidant defenses. Exploration of the canonical ISR demonstrates that eIF2 phosphorylation is not necessary for ATF4-driven changes in the transcriptome during SAAR. Additional research is needed to clarify the regulation of ATF4 and its gene targets during SAAR.

Keywords: amino acid stress; cystathionine gamma lyase; dietary restriction; fibroblast growth factor 21; healthspan; liver.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activating Transcription Factor 4 / metabolism
  • Amino Acids, Sulfur / deficiency*
  • Animals
  • Diet / methods*
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-2 / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Methionine / deficiency*
  • Mice
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*


  • Amino Acids, Sulfur
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factor-2
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Activating Transcription Factor 4
  • Methionine