Protein quality control in the ER: the recognition of misfolded proteins

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2010 Jul;21(5):500-11. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2010.03.006. Epub 2010 Mar 25.


The mechanism, in molecular terms of protein quality control, specifically of how the cell recognizes and discriminates misfolded proteins, remains a challenge. In the secretory pathway the folding status of glycoproteins passing through the endoplasmic reticulum is marked by the composition of the N-glycan. The different glycoforms are recognized by specialized lectins. The folding sensor UGGT acts as an unusual molecular chaperone and covalently modifies the Man9 N-glycan of a misfolded protein by adding a glucose moiety and converts it to Glc1Man9 that rebinds the lectin calnexin. However, further links between the folding status of a glycoprotein and the composition of the N-glycan are unclear. There is little unequivocal evidence for other proteins in the ER recognizing the N-glycan and also acting as molecular chaperones. Nevertheless, based upon a few examples, we suggest that this function is carried out by individual proteins in several different complexes. Thus, calnexin binds the protein disulfide isomerase ERp57, that acts upon Glc1Man9 glycoproteins. In another example the protein disulfide isomerase ERdj5 binds specifically to EDEM (which is probably a mannosidase) and a lectin OS9, and reduces the disulfide bonds of bound glycoproteins destined for ERAD. Thus the glycan recognition is performed by a lectin and the chaperone function performed by a specific partner protein that can recognize misfolded proteins. We predict that this will be a common arrangement of proteins in the ER and that members of protein foldase families such as PDI and PPI will bind specifically to lectins in the ER. Molecular chaperones BiP and GRp94 will assist in the folding of proteins bound in these complexes as well as in the folding of non-glycoproteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calnexin / genetics
  • Calnexin / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / genetics
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Chaperone BiP
  • Glycoproteins / chemistry
  • Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Lectins / genetics
  • Lectins / metabolism
  • Mannosidases / chemistry
  • Mannosidases / genetics
  • Mannosidases / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Molecular Chaperones / chemistry
  • Molecular Chaperones / genetics
  • Molecular Chaperones / metabolism
  • Polysaccharides / genetics
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • Protein Disulfide-Isomerases
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / metabolism*


  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Chaperone BiP
  • Glycoproteins
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Lectins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Molecular Chaperones
  • Polysaccharides
  • Proteins
  • glucose-regulated proteins
  • Calnexin
  • Mannosidases
  • Protein Disulfide-Isomerases