The intake of dietary protein regulates growth, metabolism, fecundity and lifespan across various species, which makes amino acid (AA)-sensing vital for adaptation to the nutritional environment. The general control nonderepressible 2 (GCN2)-activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) pathway and the mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) pathway are involved in AA-sensing. However, it is not fully understood which AAs regulate these two pathways in living animals and how they coordinate responses to protein restriction. Here we show in Drosophila that the non-essential AA tyrosine (Tyr) is a nutritional cue in the fat body necessary and sufficient for promoting adaptive responses to a low-protein diet, which entails reduction of protein synthesis and mTORC1 activity and increased food intake. This adaptation is regulated by dietary Tyr through GCN2-independent induction of ATF4 target genes in the fat body. This study identifies the Tyr–ATF4 axis as a regulator of the physiological response to a low-protein diet and sheds light on the essential function of a non-essential nutrient.
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