Disposing of misfolded ER proteins: A troubled substrate's way out of the ER

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2020 Jan 15;500:110630. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2019.110630. Epub 2019 Oct 24.


Secreted, plasma membrane, and resident proteins of the secretory pathway are synthesized in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) where they undergo post-translational modifications, oxidative folding, and subunit assembly in tightly monitored processes. An ER quality control (ERQC) system oversees protein maturation and ensures that only those reaching their native state will continue trafficking into the secretory pathway to reach their final destinations. Those that fail must be recognized and eliminated to maintain ER homeostasis. Two cellular mechanisms have been identified to rid the ER of terminally unfolded, misfolded, and aggregated proteins. ER-associated degradation (ERAD) was discovered nearly 30 years ago and entails the identification of improperly matured secretory pathway proteins and their retrotranslocation to the cytosol for degradation by the ubiquitin-proteasome system. ER-phagy has been more recently described and caters to larger, more complex proteins and protein aggregates that are not readily handled by ERAD. This pathway has unique upstream components and relies on the same downstream effectors of autophagy used in other cellular processes to deliver clients to lysosomes for degradation. In this review, we describe the main elements of ERQC, ERAD, and ER-phagy and focus on recent advances in these fields.

Keywords: ER chaperones; ER quality control; ER-Associated degradation; ER-Phagy; ERAD; ERQC; UPR; UPS; Ubiquitin proteasome system; Unfolded protein response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum-Associated Degradation
  • Humans
  • Protein Folding
  • Protein Transport
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Secretory Pathway


  • Proteins