Eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF) 2B is a guanine-nucleotide exchange factor that plays a key role in the regulation of protein synthesis. It is activated by insulin, serum and other agents that stimulate general protein synthesis. The largest (∊) subunit of eIF2B is a substrate for glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)-3 in vitro, and phosphorylation by GSK3 inhibits the activity of eIF2B. The site of phosphorylation has previously been identified as Ser535. GSK3 is inactivated by phosphorylation in response to insulin or serum. In Chinese-hamster ovary cells, insulin and serum bring about the dephosphorylation of Ser535in vivo, concomitantly with the phosphorylation of GSK3, and these effects are mediated through signalling via phosphoinositide 3-kinase. We have made use of inhibitors of GSK3 to determine whether GSK3 is responsible for phosphorylation of Ser535in vivo and to explore the role of phosphorylation of Ser535 in the regulation of eIF2B. Treatment of cells with LiCl or with either of two recently developed GSK3 inhibitors, SB-415286 and SB-216763, brought about the dephosphorylation of Ser535, which strongly indicates that this site is indeed a target for GSK3 in vivo. However, these compounds did not elicit significant activation of eIF2B, indicating, consistent with conclusions from one of our previous studies, that additional inputs are required for the activation of eIF2B. Our results also show that each of the inhibitors used affects overall protein synthesis and have additional effects on translation factors or signalling pathways apparently unrelated to their effects on GSK3, indicating that caution must be exercised when interpreting data obtained using these compounds.

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