To survive, mammalian cells must adapt to environmental challenges. While the cellular response to mild stress has been widely studied, how cells respond to severe stress remains unclear. We show here that under severe hyperosmotic stress, cells enter a transient hibernation-like state in anticipation of recovery. We demonstrate this adaptive pausing response (APR) is a coordinated cellular response that limits ATP supply and consumption through mitochondrial fragmentation and widespread pausing of mRNA translation. This pausing is accomplished by ribosome stalling at translation initiation codons, which keeps mRNAs poised to resume translation upon recovery. We further show that recovery from severe stress involves ISR (integrated stress response) signaling that permits cell cycle progression, resumption of growth, and reversal of mitochondria fragmentation. Our findings indicate that cells can respond to severe stress via a hibernation-like mechanism that preserves vital elements of cellular function under harsh environmental conditions.
Keywords: ATF4; ISR; hypertonic; mTOR; mitochondria; neMito mRNAs; ribosome stalling; stress; translation.
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