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1.  The Unfolded Protein Response and Chemical Chaperones Reduce Protein Misfolding and Colitis in Mice 
Gastroenterology  2013;144(5):989-1000.e6.
Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress has been associated with development of inflammatory bowel disease. We examined the effects of ER stress–induced chaperone response and the orally active chemical chaperones tauroursodeoxycholate (TUDCA) and 4-phenylbutyrate (PBA), which facilitate protein folding and reduce ER stress, in mice with colitis.
We used dextran sulfate sodium (DSS) to induce colitis in mice that do not express the transcription factor ATF6α or the protein chaperone P58IPK. We examined the effects of TUDCA and PBA in cultured intestinal epithelial cells (IECs); in wild-type, P58IPK−/−, and Atf6α−/− mice with colitis; and in Il10−/− mice.
P58IPK−/− and Atf6α−/− mice developed more severe colitis following administration of DSS than wild-type mice. IECs from P58IPK−/− mice had excessive ER stress, and apoptotic signaling was activated in IECs from Atf6α−/− mice. Inflammatory stimuli induced ER stress signals in cultured IECs, which were reduced by incubation with TUDCA or PBA. Oral administration of either PBA or TUDCA reduced features of DSS-induced acute and chronic colitis in wild-type mice, the colitis that develops in Il10−/− mice, and DSS-induced colitis in P58IPK−/− and Atf6α−/− mice. Reduced signs of colonic inflammation in these mice were associated with significantly decreased ER stress in colonic epithelial cells.
The unfolded protein response induces expression of genes that encode chaperones involved in ER protein folding; these factors prevent induction of colitis in mice. Chemical chaperones such as TUDCA and PBA alleviate different forms of colitis in mice and might be developed for treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases.
PMCID: PMC3751190  PMID: 23336977
IBD; Mouse Model; Ulcerative Colitis; Therapeutic Agent
2.  Celastrol induces unfolded protein response-dependent cell death in head and neck cancer 
Experimental cell research  2014;330(2):412-422.
The survival rate for patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) has not seen marked improvement in recent decades despite enhanced efforts in prevention and the introduction of novel therapies. We have reported that pharmacological exacerbation of the unfolded protein response (UPR) is an effective approach to killing OSCC cells. The UPR is executed via distinct signaling cascades whereby an initial attempt to restore folding homeostasis in the endoplasmic reticulum during stress is complemented by an apoptotic response if the defect cannot be resolved. To identify novel small molecules able to overwhelm the adaptive capacity of the UPR in OSCC cells, we engineered a complementary cell-based assay to screen a broad spectrum of chemical matter. Stably transfected CHO-K1 cells that individually report (luciferase) on the PERK/eIF2α/ATF4/CHOP (apoptotic) or the IRE1/XBP1 (adaptive) UPR pathways, were engineered [1]. The triterpenoids dihydrocelastrol and celastrol were identified as potent inducers of UPR signaling and cell death in a primary screen and confirmed in a panel of OSCC cells and other cancer cell lines. Biochemical and genetic assays using OSCC cells and modified murine embryonic fibroblasts demonstrated that intact PERK-eIF2–ATF4-CHOP signaling is required for pro-apoptotic UPR and OSCC death following celastrol treatment.
PMCID: PMC4280347  PMID: 25139619
Celastrol; ER stress; Unfolded protein response; Oral cancer; Apoptosis; Drug discovery; Chaperone; Protein folding
3.  UDP-glucose:glycoprotein glucosyltransferase (UGGT1) promotes substrate solubility in the endoplasmic reticulum 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(17):2597-2608.
The N-glycans promote solubility in the ER even for mutant glycoproteins, such as mutant α1-antitrypsin. This study shows that enzymatic monoglucosylation activity of the enzyme UGGT1 and lectin chaperone abundance are required for N-glycans to provide maximum solubility to the misfolded substrate.
Protein folding in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is error prone, and ER quality control (ERQC) processes ensure that only correctly folded proteins are exported from the ER. Glycoproteins can be retained in the ER by ERQC, and this retention contributes to multiple human diseases, termed ER storage diseases. UDP-glucose:glycoprotein glucosyltransferase (UGGT1) acts as a central component of glycoprotein ERQC, monoglucosylating deglucosylated N-glycans of incompletely folded glycoproteins and promoting subsequent reassociation with the lectin-like chaperones calreticulin and calnexin. The extent to which UGGT1 influences glycoprotein folding, however, has only been investigated for a few selected substrates. Using mouse embryonic fibroblasts lacking UGGT1 or those with UGGT1 complementation, we investigated the effect of monoglucosylation on the soluble/insoluble distribution of two misfolded α1-antitrypsin (AAT) variants responsible for AAT deficiency disease: null Hong Kong (NHK) and Z allele. Whereas substrate solubility increases directly with the number of N-linked glycosylation sites, our results indicate that additional solubility is conferred by UGGT1 enzymatic activity. Monoglucosylation-dependent solubility decreases both BiP association with NHK and unfolded protein response activation, and the solubility increase is blocked in cells deficient for calreticulin. These results suggest that UGGT1-dependent monoglucosylation of N-linked glycoproteins promotes substrate solubility in the ER.
PMCID: PMC3756913  PMID: 23864712
4.  PKR Protects Colonic Epithelium Against Colitis Through the Unfolded Protein Response and Prosurvival Signaling 
Inflammatory bowel diseases  2012;18(9):1735-1742.
The dsRNA-activated protein kinase (PKR) phosphorylates the α subunit of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 (eIF2α), a global regulator of protein synthesis in mammals. In addition, PKR activates several signal transduction pathways including STAT3 and AKT. PKR is activated by a number of inflammatory stimuli that are induced in the inflamed intestine. In this study we intended to determine the role of PKR in colonic epithelial cells during experimental colitis in mice.
Age- and sex-matched PKR+/+,+/− and PKR−/− littermate mice were reconstituted with wildtype bone marrow cells and subjected to dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced colitis.
PKR−/− mice displayed more severe clinical and histological manifestations upon DSS colitis compared with their PKR+/+,+/− litter-mates. In response to DSS colitis, the colonic epithelial cells of PKR−/− mice exhibited impaired activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR) signaling, including eIF2α phosphorylation, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) chaperone response, and ER-associated degradation (ERAD) components, as well as antioxidative stress response. In addition, the phosphorylation of STAT3 and AKT, which are protective against epithelial cell death and colonic inflammation, was also impaired in the colonic epithelial cells of PKR−/− mice upon DSS colitis.
These data demonstrate that PKR is a physiologically relevant transducer of inflammatory response signaling in colonic epithelial cells. PKR may promote the homeostasis and survival of intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) through eIF2α-mediated UPR activation, as well as the activation of STAT3 and AKT pathways. In the absence of PKR, the survival and proliferation of IECs was impaired, thus exacerbating intestinal inflammation.
PMCID: PMC3751177  PMID: 22275310
PKR; DSS colitis; UPR; prosurvival signaling
5.  Interaction between quality control systems for ER protein folding and RNA biogenesis 
Worm  2013;2(2):e23005.
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is the intracellular organelle responsible for the synthesis, folding and assembly of proteins destined for secretion and the endomembrane system of the cell. ER quality control (ERQC) is an intensively studied surveillance mechanism that selectively degrades misfolded proteins to ensure that only properly folded proteins exit the ER en route to the Golgi compartment. Proper protein folding is indispensable for the differentiation and function of cells that secrete high levels of protein and defects in protein folding are implicated in many pathologies, including metabolic, genetic, neurodegenerative and inflammatory diseases. Accumulation of misfolded proteins in the ER activates an adaptive set of signaling pathways, collectively known as the unfolded protein response (UPR), to resolve protein misfolding and restore ER homeostasis. Nonsense-mediated RNA decay (NMD) is an RNA surveillance system that selectively degrades nascent mRNAs containing premature termination codons (PTCs). Recently, we used a genetic screen to identify genes that interact with UPR signaling in C. elegans. These studies identified NMD-associated genes that are required for ER protein folding homeostasis. These findings link the quality control systems required for ER protein folding and RNA biogenesis, provide new insights into mechanisms of ERQC and have implications on diseases of ER dysfunction and therapeutic approaches based on NMD inhibition. Here, we discuss the biological significance of these findings and future directions for study.
PMCID: PMC3704444  PMID: 24058870
endoplasmic reticulum stress; unfolded protein response; nonsense-mediated RNA decay; quality control; protein folding; premature termination codons
6.  The impact of the unfolded protein response on human disease 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2012;197(7):857-867.
A central function of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is to coordinate protein biosynthetic and secretory activities in the cell. Alterations in ER homeostasis cause accumulation of misfolded/unfolded proteins in the ER. To maintain ER homeostasis, eukaryotic cells have evolved the unfolded protein response (UPR), an essential adaptive intracellular signaling pathway that responds to metabolic, oxidative stress, and inflammatory response pathways. The UPR has been implicated in a variety of diseases including metabolic disease, neurodegenerative disease, inflammatory disease, and cancer. Signaling components of the UPR are emerging as potential targets for intervention and treatment of human disease.
PMCID: PMC3384412  PMID: 22733998
7.  Translational and posttranslational regulation of XIAP by eIF2α and ATF4 promotes ER stress–induced cell death during the unfolded protein response 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2014;25(9):1411-1420.
Chronic ER stress down-regulates XIAP by activating the PERK branch of the UPR. PERK attenuates Xiap translation via eIF2α phosphor­ylation. PERK promotes XIAP degradation via ATF4. CHOP induction and XIAP suppression act in parallel to sensitize cells to ER stress–induced apoptosis.
Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) protein misfolding activates the unfolded protein response (UPR) to help cells cope with ER stress. If ER homeostasis is not restored, UPR promotes cell death. The mechanisms of UPR-mediated cell death are poorly understood. The PKR-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK) arm of the UPR is implicated in ER stress–induced cell death, in part through up-regulation of proapoptotic CCAAT/enhancer binding protein homologous protein (CHOP). Chop−/− cells are partially resistant to ER stress–induced cell death, and CHOP overexpression alone does not induce cell death. These findings suggest that additional mechanisms regulate cell death downstream of PERK. Here we find dramatic suppression of antiapoptosis XIAP proteins in response to chronic ER stress. We find that PERK down-regulates XIAP synthesis through eIF2α and promotes XIAP degradation through ATF4. Of interest, PERK's down-regulation of XIAP occurs independently of CHOP activity. Loss of XIAP leads to increased cell death, whereas XIAP overexpression significantly enhances resistance to ER stress–induced cell death, even in the absence of CHOP. Our findings define a novel signaling circuit between PERK and XIAP that operates in parallel with PERK to CHOP induction to influence cell survival during ER stress. We propose a “two-hit” model of ER stress–induced cell death involving concomitant CHOP up-regulation and XIAP down-regulation both induced by PERK.
PMCID: PMC4004591  PMID: 24623724
8.  Genetic Inhibition of Phosphorylation of the Translation Initiation Factor eIF2α Does Not Block Aβ-Dependent Elevation of BACE1 and APP Levels or Reduce Amyloid Pathology in a Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e101643.
β-site amyloid precursor protein (APP) cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1) initiates the production of β-amyloid (Aβ), the major constituent of amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). BACE1 is elevated ∼2–3 fold in AD brain and is concentrated in dystrophic neurites near plaques, suggesting BACE1 elevation is Aβ−dependent. Previously, we showed that phosphorylation of the translation initiation factor eIF2α de-represses translation of BACE1 mRNA following stress such as energy deprivation. We hypothesized that stress induced by Aβ might increase BACE1 levels by the same translational mechanism involving eIF2α phosphorylation. To test this hypothesis, we used three different genetic strategies to determine the effects of reducing eIF2α phosphorylation on Aβ-dependent BACE1 elevation in vitro and in vivo: 1) a two-vector adeno-associated virus (AAV) system to express constitutively active GADD34, the regulatory subunit of PP1c eIF2α phosphatase; 2) a non-phosphorylatable eIF2α S51A knockin mutation; 3) a BACE1-YFP transgene lacking the BACE1 mRNA 5′ untranslated region (UTR) required for eIF2α translational regulation. The first two strategies were used in primary neurons and 5XFAD transgenic mice, while the third strategy was employed only in 5XFAD mice. Despite very effective reduction of eIF2α phosphorylation in both primary neurons and 5XFAD brains, or elimination of eIF2α-mediated regulation of BACE1-YFP mRNA translation in 5XFAD brains, Aβ-dependent BACE1 elevation was not decreased. Additionally, robust inhibition of eIF2α phosphorylation did not block Aβ-dependent APP elevation in primary neurons, nor did it reduce amyloid pathology in 5XFAD mice. We conclude that amyloid-associated BACE1 elevation is not caused by translational de-repression via eIF2α phosphorylation, but instead appears to involve a post-translational mechanism. These definitive genetic results exclude a role for eIF2α phosphorylation in Aβ-dependent BACE1 and APP elevation. We suggest a vicious pathogenic cycle wherein Aβ42 toxicity induces peri-plaque BACE1 and APP accumulation in dystrophic neurites leading to exacerbated Aβ production and plaque progression.
PMCID: PMC4081565  PMID: 24992504
9.  Novel Bioinformatics Method for Identification of Genome-Wide Non-Canonical Spliced Regions Using RNA-Seq Data 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e100864.
During endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, the endoribonuclease (RNase) Ire1α initiates removal of a 26 nt region from the mRNA encoding the transcription factor Xbp1 via an unconventional mechanism (atypically within the cytosol). This causes an open reading frame-shift that leads to altered transcriptional regulation of numerous downstream genes in response to ER stress as part of the unfolded protein response (UPR). Strikingly, other examples of targeted, unconventional splicing of short mRNA regions have yet to be reported.
Our goal was to develop an approach to identify non-canonical, possibly very short, splicing regions using RNA-Seq data and apply it to ER stress-induced Ire1α heterozygous and knockout mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) cell lines to identify additional Ire1α targets.
We developed a bioinformatics approach called the Read-Split-Walk (RSW) pipeline, and evaluated it using two Ire1α heterozygous and two Ire1α-null samples. The 26 nt non-canonical splice site in Xbp1 was detected as the top hit by our RSW pipeline in heterozygous samples but not in the negative control Ire1α knockout samples. We compared the Xbp1 results from our approach with results using the alignment program BWA, Bowtie2, STAR, Exonerate and the Unix “grep” command. We then applied our RSW pipeline to RNA-Seq data from the SKBR3 human breast cancer cell line. RSW reported a large number of non-canonical spliced regions for 108 genes in chromosome 17, which were identified by an independent study.
We conclude that our RSW pipeline is a practical approach for identifying non-canonical splice junction sites on a genome-wide level. We demonstrate that our pipeline can detect novel splice sites in RNA-Seq data generated under similar conditions for multiple species, in our case mouse and human.
PMCID: PMC4084626  PMID: 24991935
10.  iRhoms: ERADicating the messenger in growth control signaling 
Developmental cell  2011;20(4):414-416.
iRhoms are inactive rhomboid-like pseudoproteases that lack essential catalytic residues. Although iRhoms are highly conserved in metazoan species, little is known about their function. In a recent issue of Cell, Zettl et al. (2011) show that iRhoms regulate growth factor signaling through endoplasmic reticulum-associated protein degradation (ERAD).
PMCID: PMC3408039  PMID: 21497754
11.  Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress in Liver Disease 
Journal of Hepatology  2010;54(4):795-809.
The unfolded protein response (UPR) is activated upon the accumulation of misfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), that are sensed by the binding immunoglobulin protein (BiP)/glucose-regulated protein 78 (GRP78). The accumulation of unfolded proteins sequesters BiP so it dissociates from three ER-transmembrane transducers leading to their activation. These transducers are inositol requiring (IRE) 1α, PKR-like ER kinase (PERK) and activating transcription factor (ATF) 6α. PERK phosphorylates eukaryotic initiation factor 2 alpha (eIF2α) resulting in global mRNA translation attenuation, and concurrently selectively increases the translation of several mRNAs, including the transcription factor ATF4, and its downstream target CHOP. IRE1α has kinase and endoribonuclease (RNase) activities. IRE1α autophosphorylation activates the RNase activity to cleave XBP1 mRNA, to produce the active transcription factor sXBP1. IRE1α activation also recruits and activates the stress kinase JNK. ATF6α transits to the Golgi compartment where it is cleaved by intramembrane proteolysis to generate a soluble active transcription factor. These UPR pathways act in concert to increase ER content, expand the ER protein folding capacity, degrade misfolded proteins, and reduce the load of new proteins entering the ER. All of these are geared toward adaptation to resolve the protein folding defect. Faced with persistent ER stress, adaptation starts to fail and apoptosis occurs, possibly mediated through calcium perturbations, reactive oxygen species, and the proapoptotic transcription factor CHOP. The UPR is activated in several liver diseases; including obesity associated fatty liver disease, viral hepatitis and alcohol-induced liver injury, all of which are associated with steatosis, raising the possibility that ER stress-dependent alteration in lipid homeostasis is the mechanism that underlies the steatosis. Hepatocyte apoptosis is a pathogenic event in several liver diseases, and may be linked to unresolved ER stress. If this is true, restoration of ER homeostasis prior to ER stress-induced cell death may provide a therapeutic rationale in these diseases. Here we discuss each branch of the UPR and how they may impact hepatocyte function in different pathologic states.
PMCID: PMC3375108  PMID: 21145844
12.  Fine Tuning of the UPR by the Ubiquitin Ligases Siah1/2 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(5):e1004348.
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) responds to changes in intracellular homeostasis through activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR). Yet, it is not known how UPR-signaling coordinates adaptation versus cell death. Previous studies suggested that signaling through PERK/ATF4 is required for cell death. We show that high levels of ER stress (i.e., ischemia-like conditions) induce transcription of the ubiquitin ligases Siah1/2 through the UPR transducers PERK/ATF4 and IRE1/sXBP1. In turn, Siah1/2 attenuates proline hydroxylation of ATF4, resulting in its stabilization, thereby augmenting ER stress output. Conversely, ATF4 activation is reduced upon Siah1/2 KD in cultured cells, which attenuates ER stress-induced cell death. Notably, Siah1a+/−::Siah2−/− mice subjected to neuronal ischemia exhibited smaller infarct volume and were protected from ischemia-induced death, compared with the wild type (WT) mice. In all, Siah1/2 constitutes an obligatory fine-tuning mechanism that predisposes cells to death under severe ER stress conditions.
Author Summary
Maintaining a balanced level of stress (protein folding, reactive oxygen radicals) is important for keeping cellular homeostasis (the ability of a cell to maintain internal equilibrium by adjusting its physiological processes). The accumulation of stress (external or internal) will trigger a well-orchestrated machinery that attempts to restore homeostasis, namely, the unfolded protein response (UPR). The UPR either restores balance to the cells or induces a cell death program, which clears the damaged cell. How this machinery activates cell survival versus cell death is not entirely clear. Here we identify a new layer in the regulation of the UPR, which determines the magnitude of this response. We demonstrate the importance of this newly identified regulatory component for cell death commitments, in response to the more severe conditions (ischemia, lack of oxygen and nutrients). Our findings highlight an undisclosed mechanism that is important for the cell death decision following severe stress conditions, while pointing to the ability to fine tune cellular response to stress.
PMCID: PMC4014425  PMID: 24809345
13.  XBP1 is a regulatory hub that links endoplasmic reticulum homeostasis with innate immunity and metabolism 
EMBO molecular medicine  2010;2(6):189-192.
WIS summary
IRE1/XBP1-mediated signaling represents the most conserved branch of the unfolded protein response. A series of recent studies reveal novel and potentially ancient roles for this pathway in the coordination of metabolic and immune responses.
PMCID: PMC3042734  PMID: 20533428
14.  Glycoprotein folding and quality-control mechanisms in protein-folding diseases 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2014;7(3):331-341.
Biosynthesis of proteins – from translation to folding to export – encompasses a complex set of events that are exquisitely regulated and scrutinized to ensure the functional quality of the end products. Cells have evolved to capitalize on multiple post-translational modifications in addition to primary structure to indicate the folding status of nascent polypeptides to the chaperones and other proteins that assist in their folding and export. These modifications can also, in the case of irreversibly misfolded candidates, signal the need for dislocation and degradation. The current Review focuses on the glycoprotein quality-control (GQC) system that utilizes protein N-glycosylation and N-glycan trimming to direct nascent glycopolypeptides through the folding, export and dislocation pathways in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). A diverse set of pathological conditions rooted in defective as well as over-vigilant ER quality-control systems have been identified, underlining its importance in human health and disease. We describe the GQC pathways and highlight disease and animal models that have been instrumental in clarifying our current understanding of these processes.
PMCID: PMC3944493  PMID: 24609034
N-glycosylation; Glycoprotein folding; ER quality control; ER-associated degradation; ER export
15.  Regulation of ER stress-induced macroautophagy by protein kinase C 
Autophagy  2008;4(6):841-843.
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is the primary site for folding and quality control for proteins destined to the cell surface and intracellular organelles. A variety of cellular insults alter ER homeostasis to disrupt protein folding, cause the accumulation of misfolded proteins, and activate an autophagic response. However, the molecular signaling pathways required for ER stress-induced autophagy are largely unknown. Recently, we discovered that a novel-type protein kinase C family member (PKCθ) is required for ER stress-induced autophagy. We show that ER stress, in a Ca2+-dependent manner, induces PKCθ phosphorylation within the activation loop and localization with LC3-II in punctate cytoplasmic structures. Pharmacological inhibition, siRNA-mediated knockdown, or transdominant-negative mutant expression of PKCθ block the ER stress-induced autophagic response. PKCθ activation is not required for autophagy induced by amino acid starvation, and PKCθ activation in response to ER stress does not require either the mTOR kinase or the unfolded protein response signaling pathways. Herein, we review and discuss the significance of these findings with respect to regulation of autophagy in response to ER stress.
PMCID: PMC2770887  PMID: 18670192
unfolded protein response; protein kinase Cθ; calcium; autophagy; endoplasmic reticulum; autophagosome
16.  The Endoplasmic Reticulum and the Unfolded Protein Response 
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is the site where proteins enter the secretory pathway. Proteins are translocated into the ER lumen in an unfolded state and require protein chaperones and catalysts of protein folding to attain their final appropriate conformation. A sensitive surveillance mechanism exists to prevent misfolded proteins from transiting the secretory pathway and ensures that persistently misfolded proteins are directed towards a degradative pathway. In addition, those processes that prevent accumulation of unfolded proteins in the ER lumen are highly regulated by an intracellular signaling pathway known as the unfolded protein response (UPR). The UPR provides a mechanism by which cells can rapidly adapt to alterations in client protein-folding load in the ER lumen by expanding the capacity for protein folding. In addition, a variety of insults that disrupt protein folding in the ER lumen also activate the UPR. These include changes in intralumenal calcium, altered glycosylation, nutrient deprivation, pathogen infection, expression of folding-defective proteins, and changes in redox status. Persistent protein misfolding initiates apoptotic cascades that are now known to play fundamental roles in the pathogenesis of multiple human diseases including diabetes, atherosclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC2706143  PMID: 18023214
Endoplasmic reticulum; unfolded protein response; ER; secretory pathway; apoptosis
17.  eIF2α phosphorylation bypasses premature senescence caused by oxidative stress and pro-oxidant antitumor therapies 
Aging (Albany NY)  2013;5(12):884-901.
Eukaryotic cells respond to various forms of stress by blocking mRNA translation initiation via the phosphorylation of the alpha (α) subunit of eIF2 at serine 51 (S51) (eIFαP). An important role of eIF2αP is the regulation of redox homeostasis and adaptation of cells to oxidative stress. Herein, we demonstrate that eIF2αP guards cells from intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) via the inhibition of senescence. Specifically, genetic inactivation of either eIF2αP or eIF2α kinase PERK in primary mouse or human fibroblasts leads to proliferative defects associated with increased DNA damage, G2/M accumulation and induction of premature senescence. Impaired proliferation of either PERK or eIF2αP-deficient primary cells is caused by increased ROS and restored by anti-oxidant treatment. Contrary to primary cells, immortalized mouse fibroblasts or human tumor cells become tolerant to elevated intracellular ROS levels caused by impaired eIF2αP. However, eIF2αP-deficient human tumor cells are highly susceptible to extrinsic ROS generated by the pro-oxidant drug doxorubicin by undergoing premature senescence. Our work demonstrates that eIF2αP determines cell destiny through its capacity to control senescence in response to oxidative stress. Also, inhibition of eIF2αP may be a suitable means to increase the anti-tumor effects of pro-oxidant drugs through the induction of senescence.
PMCID: PMC3883705  PMID: 24334569
eIF2; protein phosphorylation; mRNA translation; reactive oxygen species; DNA damage; cellular senescence; doxorubicin
18.  IRE1, a double-edged sword in pre-miRNA slicing and cell death 
Developmental cell  2012;23(5):921-923.
IRE1α, the most conserved transducer of the unfolded protein response, plays critical roles in many biological processes and cell fate decisions. Reporting in Science, Upton et al. (2012) broadened our understanding of IRE1a as a cell-death executioner, showing that upon ER stress, IRE1α degrades microRNAs to promote translation of caspase-2.
PMCID: PMC3684431  PMID: 23153490
19.  The Role of p58IPK in Protecting the Stressed Endoplasmic Reticulum 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2007;18(9):3681-3691.
The preemptive quality control (pQC) pathway protects cells from acute endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress by attenuating translocation of nascent proteins despite their targeting to translocons at the ER membrane. Here, we investigate the hypothesis that the DnaJ protein p58IPK plays an essential role in this process via HSP70 recruitment to the cytosolic face of translocons for extraction of translocationally attenuated nascent chains. Our analyses revealed that the heightened stress sensitivity of p58−/− cells was not due to an impairment of the pQC pathway or elevated ER substrate burden during acute stress. Instead, the lesion was in the protein processing capacity of the ER lumen, where p58IPK was found to normally reside in association with BiP. ER lumenal p58IPK could be coimmunoprecipitated with a newly synthesized secretory protein in vitro and stimulated protein maturation upon overexpression in cells. These results identify a previously unanticipated location for p58IPK in the ER lumen where its putative function as a cochaperone explains the stress-sensitivity phenotype of knockout cells and mice.
PMCID: PMC1951758  PMID: 17567950
20.  IRE1α -XBP1s Induces PDI Expression to Increase MTP Activity for Hepatic VLDL Assembly and Lipid Homeostasis 
Cell metabolism  2012;16(4):473-486.
The unfolded protein response (UPR) is a signaling pathway required to maintain endoplasmic reticulum (ER) homeostasis and hepatic lipid metabolism. Here, we identify an essential role for the inositol-requiring transmembrane kinase/endoribonuclease 1α (IRE1α)-X-box binding protein 1 (XBP1) arm of the UPR in regulation of hepatic very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) assembly and secretion. Hepatocyte-specific deletion of Ire1α reduces lipid partitioning into the ER lumen and impairs the assembly of triglyceride (TG)-rich VLDL, but does not affect TG synthesis, de novo lipogenesis, or the synthesis or secretion of apolipoprotein B (apoB). The defect in VLDL assembly is, at least in part, due to decreased microsomal triglyceride-transfer protein (MTP) activity resulting from reduced protein disulfide isomerase (PDI) expression. Collectively, our findings reveal a key role for the IRE1α-XBP1s-PDI axis in linking ER homeostasis with regulation of VLDL production and hepatic lipid homeostasis that may provide a therapeutic target for disorders of lipid metabolism.
PMCID: PMC3569089  PMID: 23040069
21.  Temporal clustering of gene expression links the metabolic transcription factor HNF4α to the ER stress-dependent gene regulatory network 
Frontiers in Genetics  2013;4:188.
The unfolded protein response (UPR) responds to disruption of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) function by initiating signaling cascades that ultimately culminate in extensive transcriptional regulation. Classically, this regulation includes genes encoding ER chaperones, ER-associated degradation factors, and others involved in secretory protein folding and processing, and is carried out by the transcriptional activators that are produced as a consequence of UPR activation. However, up to half of the mRNAs regulated by ER stress are downregulated rather than upregulated, and the mechanisms linking ER stress and UPR activation to mRNA suppression are poorly understood. To begin to address this issue, we used a “bottom-up” approach to study the metabolic gene regulatory network controlled by the UPR in the liver, because ER stress in the liver leads to lipid accumulation, and fatty liver disease is the most common liver disease in the western world. qRT-PCR profiling of mouse liver mRNAs during ER stress revealed that suppression of the transcriptional regulators C/EBPα, PPARα, and PGC-1α preceded lipid accumulation, and was then followed by suppression of mRNAs encoding key enzymes involved in fatty acid oxidation and lipoprotein biogenesis and transport. Mice lacking the ER stress sensor ATF6α, which experience persistent ER stress and profound lipid accumulation during challenge, were then used as the basis for a functional genomics approach that allowed genes to be grouped into distinct expression profiles. This clustering predicted that ER stress would suppress the activity of the metabolic transcriptional regulator HNF4α—a finding subsequently confirmed by chromatin immunopreciptation at the Cebpa and Pgc1a promoters. Our results establish a framework for hepatic gene regulation during ER stress and suggest that HNF4α occupies the apex of that framework. They also provide a unique resource for the community to further explore the temporal regulation of gene expression during ER stress in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3781334  PMID: 24069029
ER stress; fatty liver; functional genomics; gene regulatory network; lipid metabolism
22.  Domain compatibility in Ire1 kinase is critical for the Unfolded Protein Response 
FEBS letters  2010;584(14):3203-3208.
The unfolded phrotein response is a mechanism to cope with endoplasmic reticulum stress. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Ire1 senses the stress and mediates a signaling cascade to upregulate responsive genes through an unusual HAC1 mRNA splicing. The splicing requires interconnected activity (kinase and endoribonuclease) of Ire1 to cleave HAC1 mRNA at the non-canonical splice sites before translation into Hac1 transcription factor. Analysis of the truncated kinase domain from Ire1 homologs revealed that this domain is highly conserved. Characterization by domain swapping indicated that a functional ATP/ADP binding domain is minimally required. However the overall domain compatibility is critical for eliciting its full endoribonuclease function.
PMCID: PMC3762510  PMID: 20541549
Unfolded protein response; Ire1; Domain swapping; HAC1 splicing; protein kinase; endoribonuclease
23.  ER Stress and Its Functional Link to Mitochondria: Role in Cell Survival and Death 
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is the primary site for synthesis and folding of secreted and membrane-bound proteins. Proteins are translocated into ER lumen in an unfolded state and require protein chaperones and catalysts of protein folding to assist in proper folding. Properly folded proteins traffic from the ER to the Golgi apparatus; misfolded proteins are targeted to degradation. Unfolded protein response (UPR) is a highly regulated intracellular signaling pathway that prevents accumulation of misfolded proteins in the ER lumen. UPR provides an adaptive mechanism by which cells can augment protein folding and processing capacities of the ER. If protein misfolding is not resolved, the UPR triggers apoptotic cascades. Although the molecular mechanisms underlying ER stress-induced apoptosis are not completely understood, increasing evidence suggests that ER and mitochondria cooperate to signal cell death. Mitochondria and ER form structural and functional networks (mitochondria-associated ER membranes [MAMs]) essential to maintain cellular homeostasis and determine cell fate under various pathophysiological conditions. Regulated Ca2+ transfer from the ER to the mitochondria is important in maintaining control of prosurvival/prodeath pathways. We discuss the signaling/communication between the ER and mitochondria and focus on the role of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore in these complex processes.
If protein misfolding in the ER is not resolved by the unfolded protein response (UPR), apoptosis is triggered. The is regulated by Ca2+ transfer from the ER to the mitochondria.
PMCID: PMC3181038  PMID: 21813400
24.  The unfolded protein response sensor IRE1α is required at 2 distinct steps in B cell lymphopoiesis 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2005;115(2):268-281.
B lymphocyte differentiation is coordinated with the induction of high-level Ig secretion and expansion of the secretory pathway. Upon accumulation of unfolded proteins in the lumen of the ER, cells activate an intracellular signaling pathway termed the unfolded protein response (UPR). Two major proximal sensors of the UPR are inositol-requiring enzyme 1α (IRE1α), an ER transmembrane protein kinase/endoribonuclease, and ER-resident eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α (eIF2α) kinase (PERK). To elucidate whether the UPR plays an important role in lymphopoiesis, we carried out reconstitution of recombinase-activating gene 2–deficient (rag2–/–) mice with hematopoietic cells defective in either IRE1α- or PERK-mediated signaling. IRE1α-deficient (ire1α–/–) HSCs can proliferate and give rise to pro–B cells that home to bone marrow. However, IRE1α, but not its catalytic activities, is required for Ig gene rearrangement and production of B cell receptors (BCRs). Analysis of rag2–/– mice transplanted with IRE1α trans-dominant-negative bone marrow cells demonstrated an additional requirement for IRE1α in B lymphopoiesis: both the IRE1α kinase and RNase catalytic activities are required to splice the mRNA encoding X-box–binding protein 1 (XBP1) for terminal differentiation of mature B cells into antibody-secreting plasma cells. Furthermore, UPR-mediated translational control through eIF2α phosphorylation is not required for B lymphocyte maturation and/or plasma cell differentiation. These results suggest specific requirements of the IRE1α-mediated UPR subpathway in the early and late stages of B lymphopoiesis.
PMCID: PMC546421  PMID: 15690081
25.  Thioredoxin-interacting protein mediates ER stress-induced β cell death through initiation of the inflammasome 
Cell metabolism  2012;16(2):265-273.
Recent clinical and experimental evidence suggests that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress contributes to the life-and-death decisions of β cells during the progression of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Although crosstalk between inflammation and ER stress has been suggested to play a significant role in β cell dysfunction and death, a key molecule connecting ER stress to inflammation has not been identified. Here we report that thioredoxin-interacting protein (TXNIP) is a critical signaling node that links ER stress and inflammation. TXNIP is induced by ER stress through the PERK and IRE1 pathways, induces IL-1β mRNA transcription, activates IL-1β production by the NLRP3 inflammasome, and mediates ER stress-mediated β cell death. Collectively, our results suggest that TXNIP is a potential therapeutic target for diabetes and ER stress-related human diseases such as Wolfram syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3418541  PMID: 22883234

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