Exposure of fission yeast cells to ultraviolet (UV) light leads to inhibition of translation and phosphorylation of the eukaryotic initiation factor-2α (eIF2α). This phosphorylation is a common response to stress in all eukaryotes. It leads to inhibition of translation at the initiation stage and is thought to be the main reason why stressed cells dramatically reduce protein synthesis. Phosphorylation of eIF2α has been taken as a readout for downregulation of translation, but the role of eIF2α phosphorylation in the downregulation of general translation has not been much investigated. We show here that UV-induced, global inhibition of translation in fission yeast cells is independent of eIF2α phosphorylation and the eIF2α kinase general control nonderepressible-2 (Gcn2). Also in budding yeast and mammalian cells the UV-induced translational depression is largely independent of GCN2 and eIF2α phosphorylation. Furthermore, exposure of fission yeast cells to oxidative stress from hydrogen peroxide induced an inhibition of translation that is also independent of Gcn2 and of eIF2α phosphorylation. Our findings show that stress-induced translational inhibition occurs by an unknown mechanism that is likely to be conserved through evolution.

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