The phosphorylation of eIF2α is essential for the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response, the formation of stress granules, as well as macroautophagy. Several successful anticancer chemotherapeutics have the property to induce immunogenic cell death (ICD), thereby causing anticancer immune responses. ICD is accompanied by the translocation of calreticulin (CALR) from the ER lumen to the plasma membrane, which facilitates the transfer of tumor-associated antigens to dendritic cells. Here we systematically investigated the capacity of anticancer chemotherapeutics to induce signs of ER stress. ICD inducers including anthracyclines and agents that provoke tetraploidization were highly efficient in enhancing the phosphorylation of eIF2α, yet failed to stimulate other signs of ER stress including the transcriptional activation of activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4), the alternative splicing of X-box binding protein 1 (XBP1s) mRNA and the proteolytic cleavage of activating transcription factor 6 (ATF6) both in vitro and in cancers established in mice. Systematic analyses of clinically used anticancer chemotherapeutics revealed that only eIF2α phosphorylation, but none of the other signs of ER stress, correlated with CALR exposure. eIF2α phosphorylation induced by mitoxantrone, a prototype ICD-inducing anthracyline, was mediated by eIF2α kinase-3 (EIF2AK3). Machine-learning approaches were used to determine the physicochemical properties of drugs that induce ICD, revealing that the sole ER stress response relevant to the algorithm is eIF2α phosphorylation with its downstream consequences CALR exposure, stress granule formation and autophagy induction. Importantly, this approach could reduce the complexity of compound libraries to identify ICD inducers based on their physicochemical and structural characteristics. In summary, it appears that eIF2α phosphorylation constitutes a pathognomonic characteristic of ICD.
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Edited by S. Fulda
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We thank David Enot for his help in mathematical modeling and Gautier Stoll for his help in statistical analysis in hyperploid experiments, Prof. Dr. Claudio Hetz for help with the XPB1 reverse transcription PCR, Prof. Dr. John E. Dick for sharing the pSMALB-ATF4.5rep plasmid  and Dr. Silke Nock and Prof. Dr. Peter Walter for the U2OS GFP-ATF6 cell line. GK is supported by the Ligue contre le Cancer (équipe labelisée); Agence National de la Recherche (ANR) – Projets blancs; ANR under the frame of E-Rare-2, the ERA-Net for Research on Rare Diseases; Association pour la recherche sur le cancer (ARC); Cancéropôle Ile-de-France; Institut National du Cancer (INCa); Institut Universitaire de France; Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale (FDM20140630126 and FDM 40739); the European Commission (ArtForce); the European Research Council (ERC); the LeDucq Foundation; the LabEx Immuno-Oncology; the RHU Torino Lumière, the SIRIC Stratified Oncology Cell DNA Repair and Tumor Immune Elimination (SOCRATE); the SIRIC Cancer Research and Personalized Medicine (CARPEM); and the Paris Alliance of Cancer Research Institutes (PACRI). PL is supported by the Chinese Scholarship Council and LZ by la Ligue contre le cancer. LS is supported by Fondation ARC projects. JH owns a Fondation Philantropia’s fellowship. LG is supported by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT).
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