Eukaryotic elongation factor 2 kinase regulates the cold stress response by slowing translation elongation

John R.P. Knight, Amandine Bastide, Anne Roobol, Jo Roobol, Thomas J. Jackson, Wahyu Utami, David A. Barrett, C. Mark Smales, Anne E. Willis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cells respond to external stress conditions by controlling gene expression, a process which occurs rapidly via post-transcriptional regulation at the level of protein synthesis. Global control of translation is mediated by modification of translation factors to allow reprogramming of the translatome and synthesis of specific proteins that are required for stress protection or initiation of apoptosis. In the present study, we have investigated how global protein synthesis rates are regulated upon mild cooling. We demonstrate that although there are changes to the factors that control initiation, including phosphorylation of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 (eIF2) on the α-subunit, the reduction in the global translation rate is mediated by regulation of elongation via phosphorylation of eukaryotic elongation factor 2 (eEF2) by its specific kinase, eEF2K (eukaryotic elongation factor 2 kinase). The AMP/ATP ratio increases following cooling, consistent with a reduction in metabolic rates, giving rise to activation of AMPK (5′-AMP-activated protein kinase), which is upstream of eEF2K. However, our data show that the major trigger for activation of eEF2K upon mild cooling is the release of Ca2+ ions from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and, importantly, that it is possible to restore protein synthesis rates in cooled cells by inhibition of this pathway at multiple points. As cooling has both therapeutic and industrial applications, our data provide important new insights into how the cellular responses to this stress are regulated, opening up new possibilities to modulate these responses for medical or industrial use at physiological or cooler temperatures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-238
Number of pages12
JournalBiochemical Journal
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2015


  • Calcium
  • Cold-shock
  • Eukaryotic elongation factor 2 (eEF2)
  • Eukaryotic elongation factor 2 kinase (eEF2K)
  • Hypothermia
  • Protein synthesis

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Cancer Research Centre


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