Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress induces both autophagy and apoptosis yet the molecular mechanisms and pathways underlying the regulation of these two cellular processes in cells undergoing ER stress remain less clear. We report here that eukaryotic elongation factor-2 kinase (EE F2K) is a critical controller of the ER stress-induced autophagy and apoptosis in tumor cells. DDIT4, a stress-induced protein, was required for transducing the signal for activation of EE F2K under ER stress. We further showed that phosphorylation of EE F2K at Ser398 was essential for induction of autophagy, while phosphorylation of the kinase at Ser366 and Ser78 exerted an inhibitory effect on autophagy. Suppression of the ER stress-activated autophagy via silencing of EE F2K aggravated ER stress and promoted apoptotic cell death in tumor cells. Moreover, inhibiting EE F2K by either RNAi or NH125, a small molecule inhibitor of the enzyme, rendered tumor cells more sensitive to curcumin and velcade, two anticancer agents that possess ER stress-inducing action. Our study indicated that the DDIT4-EE F2K pathway was essential for inducing autophagy and for determining the fate of tumor cells under ER stress, and suggested that inhibiting the EE F2K-mediated autophagy can deteriorate ER stress and lead to a greater apoptotic response, thereby potentiating the efficacy of the ER stress-inducing agents against cancer.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology