Lipid bilayer stress-activated IRE-1 modulates autophagy during endoplasmic reticulum stress

J Cell Sci. 2018 Nov 21;131(22):jcs217992. doi: 10.1242/jcs.217992.


Metabolic disorders, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), are emerging as epidemics that affect the global population. One facet of these disorders is attributed to the disturbance of membrane lipid composition. Perturbation of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) homeostasis through alteration in membrane phospholipids activates the unfolded protein response (UPR) and causes dramatic transcriptional and translational changes in the cell. To restore cellular homeostasis, the three highly conserved UPR transducers ATF6, IRE1 (also known as ERN1 in mammals) and PERK (also known as EIF2AK3 in mammals) mediate adaptive responses upon ER stress. The homeostatic UPR cascade is well characterised under conditions of proteotoxic stress, but much less so under lipid bilayer stress-induced UPR. Here, we show that disrupted phosphatidylcholine (PC) synthesis in Caenorhabditiselegans causes lipid bilayer stress, lipid droplet accumulation and ER stress induction. Transcriptional profiling of PC-deficient worms revealed a unique subset of genes regulated in a UPR-dependent manner that is independent from proteotoxic stress. Among these, we show that autophagy is modulated through the conserved IRE-1-XBP-1 axis, strongly suggesting of the importance of autophagy in maintaining cellular homeostasis during the lipid bilayer stress-induced UPR.

Keywords: Autophagy; ER; Endoplasmic reticulum; Lipid bilayer stress; Metabolic disease; UPR; Unfolded protein response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy / physiology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism*
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Lipid Bilayers / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylcholines / biosynthesis
  • Phosphatidylcholines / metabolism
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Unfolded Protein Response / genetics


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • XBP-1 protein, C elegans
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • IRE-1 protein, C elegans