Endoplasmic reticulum stress and the unfolded protein response in disorders of myelinating glia

Brain Res. 2016 Oct 1;1648(Pt B):594-602. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2016.03.046. Epub 2016 Apr 4.


Myelin is vital to the proper function of the nervous system. Oligodendrocytes in the CNS and Schwann cells in the PNS are the glial cells responsible for generating the myelin sheath. Myelination requires the production of a vast amount of proteins and lipid-rich membrane, which puts a heavy load on the secretory pathway of myelinating glia and leaves them susceptible to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. Cells respond to ER stress by activating the unfolded protein response (UPR). The UPR is initially protective but in situations of prolonged unresolved stress the UPR can lead to the apoptotic death of the stressed cell. There is strong evidence that ER stress and the UPR play a role in a number of disorders of myelin and myelinating glia, including multiple sclerosis, Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease, Vanishing White Matter Disease, and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. In this review we discuss the role that ER stress and the UPR play in these disorders of myelin. In addition, we discuss the progress that has been made in our understanding of the effect genetic and pharmacological manipulation of the UPR has in mouse models of these disorders and the novel therapeutic potential of targeting the UPR that these studies support. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled SI:ER stress.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02423083.

Keywords: ER stress; Myelin; Oligodendrocytes; Schwann cells; Unfolded protein response.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Demyelinating Diseases / drug therapy
  • Demyelinating Diseases / pathology*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / drug effects
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / physiology*
  • Guanabenz / analogs & derivatives
  • Guanabenz / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Neuroglia / drug effects
  • Neuroglia / metabolism*
  • Unfolded Protein Response / drug effects
  • Unfolded Protein Response / physiology*


  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists
  • sephin1
  • Guanabenz

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02423083