For most eukaryotic organisms, including Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the rapid inhibition of protein synthesis forms part of a response to stress. In order to balance the changing conditions, precise stress-specific alterations to the cell's proteome are required. Therefore, in the background of a global down-regulation in protein synthesis, specific proteins are induced. Given the level of plasticity required to enable stress-specific alterations of this kind, it is surprising that the mechanisms of translational regulation are not more diverse. In the present review, we summarize the impact of stress on translation initiation, highlighting both the similarities and distinctions between various stress responses. Finally, we speculate as to how yeast cells generate stress-responsive programmes of protein production when regulation is focused on the same steps in the translation pathway.

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