The present study demonstrates that even brief inhibition of degradation by the 26S proteasome inhibits global protein synthesis, mediated through increased phosphorylation of eIF2 alpha (eukaryotic translational initiation factor 2 alpha) by the HRI (haem-regulated inhibitor) kinase. Exposure of COS-7 cells to the proteasome inhibitor MG-132 (the proteasome inhibitor carbobenzoxy-L-leucyl-L-leucyl-leucinal) for 4 h resulted in a 55-60 % decrease in protein synthesis rate compared with control cells. This repression of protein synthesis after treatment with MG-132 is not due to induction of apoptosis, which is known to occur after longer periods of 26S inhibition. Instead, we observed a significantly increased phosphorylation of eIF2 alpha, which is known to repress global protein synthesis. In three MEF (mouse embryonic fibroblast) knockout cell lines lacking one of the four kinases known to phosphorylate eIF2 alpha, increased phosphorylation of eIF2 alpha still occurred after inhibition of the 26S proteasome. These three cell lines included a deletion of the PKR (double-stranded-RNA-dependent protein kinase); a deletion of the PERK (PKR-like endoplasmic reticulum resident kinase); or a deletion of the GCN2 (positive general control of transcription-2) kinase, indicating that none of these kinases was primarily responsible for the observed phosphorylation of eIF2 alpha. In contrast, in a fourth MEF knockout cell line, HRI-/- cells lacking the HRI kinase failed to increase eIF2 alpha phosphorylation upon proteasome inhibitor treatment (MG-132 or various doses of Bortezomib), indicating that the HRI kinase is the primary kinase activated by brief treatment of MEFs with 26S proteasome inhibitors.