Role of the unfolded protein response in cell death

Apoptosis. 2006 Jan;11(1):5-13. doi: 10.1007/s10495-005-3088-0.


Unfolded protein response (UPR) is an important genomic response to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. The ER chaperones, GRP78 and Gadd153, play critical roles in cell survival or cell death as part of the UPR, which is regulated by three signaling pathways: PERK/ATF4, IRE1/XBP1 and ATF6. During the UPR, accumulated unfolded protein is either correctly refolded, or unsuccessfully refolded and degraded by the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. When the unfolded protein exceeds a threshold, damaged cells are committed to cell death, which is mediated by ATF4 and ATF6, as well as activation of the JNK/AP-1/Gadd153-signaling pathway. Gadd153 suppresses activation of Bcl-2 and NF-kappaB. UPR-mediated cell survival or cell death is regulated by the balance of GRP78 and Gadd153 expression, which is coregulated by NF-kappaB in accordance with the magnitude of ER stress. Less susceptibility to cell death upon activation of the UPR may contribute to tumor progression and drug resistance of solid tumors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Cell Survival
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Proteins / chemistry
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism
  • Protein Folding*
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism


  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Ubiquitin
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex