Background: The hexosamine biosynthetic pathway (HBP) generates UDP-GlcNAc (uridine diphosphate N-acetylglucosamine) for glycan synthesis and O-linked GlcNAc (O-GlcNAc) protein modifications. Despite the established role of the HBP in glucose metabolism and multiple diseases, regulation of the HBP remains largely undefined.
Methods & Results: Here, we show that spliced Xbp1 (Xbp1s), the most conserved signal transducer of the unfolded protein response (UPR), is a direct transcriptional activator of the HBP. We demonstrate that the UPR triggers activation of the HBP by means of Xbp1s-dependent transcription of genes coding for key, rate-limiting enzymes. We establish that this previously unrecognized UPR-HBP axis is triggered in a variety of stress conditions known to promote O-GlcNAc modification. We go on to demonstrate that Xbp1s, acutely stimulated by ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) in heart, confers robust cardioprotection against I/R injury. We also show that HBP induction is required for this cardioprotective response. Mechanistically, HBP may mediate the adaptive branch of the UPR by activating autophagy and ER-associated degradation.
Conclusion: These studies reveal that Xbp1s couples the UPR to the HBP, promoting robust cardioprotection during I/R.