An oxygen-regulated switch in the protein synthesis machinery

James Uniacke, Chet E. Holterman, Gabriel Lachance, Aleksandra Franovic, Mathieu D. Jacob, Marc R. Fabian, Josianne Payette, Martin Holcik, Arnim Pause, Stephen Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

177 Scopus citations


Protein synthesis involves the translation of ribonucleic acid information into proteins, the building blocks of life. The initial step of protein synthesis is the binding of the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E) to the 7-methylguanosine (m7-GpppG) 5' cap of messenger RNAs1,2. Low oxygen tension (hypoxia) represses cap-mediated translation by sequestering eIF4E through mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)-dependent mechanisms3-6. Although the internal ribosome entry site is an alternative translation initiation mechanism, this pathway alone cannot account for the translational capacity of hypoxic cells7,8. This raises a fundamental question in biology as to how proteins are synthesized in periods of oxygen scarcity and eIF4E inhibition9. Here we describe an oxygen-regulated translation initiation complex that mediates selective cap-dependent protein synthesis. We show that hypoxia stimulates the formation of a complex that includes the oxygen-regulated hypoxia-inducible factor 2α (HIF-2α), the RNA-binding protein RBM4 and the cap-binding eIF4E2, an eIF4E homologue. Photoactivatable ribonucleoside-enhanced crosslinking and immunoprecipitation (PAR-CLIP)10 analysis identified an RNA hypoxia response element (rHRE) that recruits this complex to a wide array of mRNAs, including that encoding the epidermal growth factor receptor. Once assembled at the HIF-2α-RBM4-eIF4E2 complex captures the 5'cap and targets mRNAs to polysomes for active translation, thereby evading hypoxia-induced repression of protein synthesis. These findings demonstrate that cells have evolved a program by which oxygen tension switches the basic translation initiation machinery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126-129
Number of pages4
Issue number7401
StatePublished - Jun 7 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'An oxygen-regulated switch in the protein synthesis machinery'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this