Phosphorylation of the RNA-dependent protein kinase regulates its RNA-binding activity

N. V. Jammi, P. A. Beal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The RNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR) is an interferon-induced, RNA-activated enzyme that phosphorylates the α-subunit of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 (elF2α), inhibiting the function of the elF2 complex and continued initiation of translation. When bound to an activating RNA and ATP, PKR undergoes autophosphorylation reactions at multiple serine and threonine residues. This autophosphorylation reaction stimulates the elF2α kinase activity of PKR. The binding of certain viral RNAs inhibits the activation of PKR. Wild-type PKR is obtained as a highly phosphorylated protein when overexpressed in Escherichia coli. We report here that treatment of the isolated phosphoprotein with the catalytic subunit of protein phosphatase 1 dephosphorylates the enzyme. The in vitro autophosphorylation and elF2α kinase activities of the dephosphorylated enzyme are stimulated by addition of RNA. Thus, inactivation by phosphatase treatment of autophosphorylated PKR obtained from over-expression in bacteria generates PKR in a form suitable for in vitro analysis of the RNA-induced activation mechanism. Furthermore, we used gel mobility shift assays, methidiumpropyl-EDTA·Fe footprinting and affinity chromatography to demonstrate differences in the RNA-binding properties of phospho- and dephosphoPKR. We found that dephosphorylation of PKR increases binding affinity of the enzyme for both kinase activating and inhibiting RNAs. These results are consistent with an activation mechanism that includes release of the activating RNA upon autophosphorylation of PKR prior to phosphorylation of elF2α.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3020-3029
Number of pages10
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 15 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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