Ricin inhibits activation of the unfolded protein response by preventing splicing of the HAC1 mRNA

Bijal A. Parikh, Andrew Tortora, Xiao Ping Li, Nilgun E. Tumer

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31 Scopus citations


Ricin A chain (RTA) inhibits protein synthesis by removing a specific adenine from the highly conserved α-sarcin/ricin loop in the large rRNA. Expression of RTA with its own signal sequence in yeast resulted in its translocation into the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and subsequent glycosylation. Because RTA must unfold within the ER, it may be vulnerable to host defenses, such as the unfolded protein response (UPR). UPR was induced in cells expressing an active site mutant but not the wild type RTA, indicating that the active site of RTA played a role in perturbing the ER stress response. The inactive RTA without the signal sequence did not induce UPR, indicating that translocation into the ER was critical for induction of UPR. The wild type RTA inhibited activation of UPR not only due to ER stress induced by the protein itself but also by global effectors such as tunicamycin and dithiothreitol. Mature RTA without the signal sequence also inhibited UPR, providing evidence that inhibition of UPR occurred on the cytosolic face of the ER. RTA could not inhibit UPR when the spliced form of HAC1 mRNA was provided in trans, indicating that it had a direct effect on UPR upstream of HAC1-dependent transcriptional activation. Only the precursor form of HAC1 mRNA was detected in cells expressing RTA after exposure to ER stress, demonstrating that ricin inhibits activation of UPR by preventing HAC1 mRNA splicing. The RTA mutants that depurinated ribosomes but did not kill cells were not able to inhibit activation of UPR by tunicamycin, providing evidence that the inability to activate UPR in response to ER stress contributes to the cytotoxicity of ricin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6145-6153
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 7 2008


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