An inadequate supply of amino acids leads to accumulation of uncharged tRNAs, which can bind and activate GCN2 kinase to reduce translation. Here, we show that glutamine-specific tRNAs selectively become uncharged when extracellular amino acid availability is compromised. In contrast, all other tRNAs retain charging of their cognate amino acids in a manner that is dependent upon intact lysosomal function. In addition to GCN2 activation and reduced total translation, the reduced charging of tRNAGln in amino-acid-deprived cells also leads to specific depletion of proteins containing polyglutamine tracts including core-binding factor α1, mediator subunit 12, transcriptional coactivator CBP and TATA-box binding protein. Treating amino-acid-deprived cells with exogenous glutamine or glutaminase inhibitors restores tRNAGln charging and the levels of polyglutamine-containing proteins. Together, these results demonstrate that the activation of GCN2 and the translation of polyglutamine-encoding transcripts serve as key sensors of glutamine availability in mammalian cells.
Keywords: cell biology; glutamine; human; mouse; nutrient depletion; polyglutamine; tRNA; translation.
© 2020, Pavlova et al.