Diverse perturbations to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) functions compromise the proper folding and structural maturation of secretory proteins. To study secretory pathway physiology during such "ER stress," we employed an ER-targeted, redox-responsive, green fluorescent protein-eroGFP-that reports on ambient changes in oxidizing potential. Here we find that diverse ER stress regimes cause properly folded, ER-resident eroGFP (and other ER luminal proteins) to "reflux" back to the reducing environment of the cytosol as intact, folded proteins. By utilizing eroGFP in a comprehensive genetic screen in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we show that ER protein reflux during ER stress requires specific chaperones and cochaperones residing in both the ER and the cytosol. Chaperone-mediated ER protein reflux does not require E3 ligase activity, and proceeds even more vigorously when these ER-associated degradation (ERAD) factors are crippled, suggesting that reflux may work in parallel with ERAD. In summary, chaperone-mediated ER protein reflux may be a conserved protein quality control process that evolved to maintain secretory pathway homeostasis during ER protein-folding stress.
Keywords: ERAD; UPR; endoplasmic reticulum stress; reflux.