General amino acid control in fission yeast is regulated by a nonconserved transcription factor, with functions analogous to Gcn4/Atf4.

14 Mar 2018

Eukaryotes respond to amino acid starvation by enhancing the translation of mRNAs encoding b-ZIP family transcription factors (GCN4 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and ATF4 in mammals), which launch transcriptional programs to counter this stress. This pathway involves phosphorylation of the eIF2 translation factor by Gcn2-protein kinases and is regulated by upstream ORFs (uORFs) in the GCN4/ATF4 5' leaders. Here, we present evidence that the transcription factors that mediate this response are not evolutionarily conserved. Although cells of the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe respond transcriptionally to amino acid starvation, they lack clear Gcn4 and Atf4 orthologs. We used ribosome profiling to identify mediators of this response in S. pombe, looking for transcription factors that behave like GCN4 We discovered a transcription factor (Fil1) translationally induced by amino acid starvation in a 5' leader and Gcn2-dependent manner. Like Gcn4, Fil1 is required for the transcriptional response to amino acid starvation, and Gcn4 and Fil1 regulate similar genes. Despite their similarities in regulation, function, and targets, Fil1 and Gcn4 belong to different transcription factor families (GATA and b-ZIP, respectively). Thus, the same functions are performed by nonorthologous proteins under similar regulation. These results highlight the plasticity of transcriptional networks, which maintain conserved principles with nonconserved regulators.