Protein disulfide isomerase: a critical evaluation of its function in disulfide bond formation

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2009 Nov;11(11):2807-50. doi: 10.1089/ars.2009.2466.


Disulfide bond formation is probably involved in the biogenesis of approximately one third of human proteins. A central player in this essential process is protein disulfide isomerase or PDI. PDI was the first protein-folding catalyst reported. However, despite more than four decades of study, we still do not understand much about its physiological mechanisms of action. This review examines the published literature with a critical eye. This review aims to (a) provide background on the chemistry of disulfide bond formation and rearrangement, including the concept of reduction potential, before examining the structure of PDI; (b) detail the thiol-disulfide exchange reactions that are catalyzed by PDI in vitro, including a critical examination of the assays used to determine them; (c) examine oxidation and reduction of PDI in vivo, including not only the role of ERo1 but also an extensive assessment of the role of glutathione, as well as other systems, such as peroxide, dehydroascorbate, and a discussion of vitamin K-based systems; (d) consider the in vivo reactions of PDI and the determination and implications of the redox state of PDI in vivo; and (e) discuss other human and yeast PDI-family members.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disulfides / chemistry
  • Disulfides / metabolism*
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Protein Disulfide-Isomerases / chemistry
  • Protein Disulfide-Isomerases / genetics
  • Protein Disulfide-Isomerases / metabolism*


  • Disulfides
  • Protein Disulfide-Isomerases
  • Glutathione