Pharmacologic IRE1/XBP1s activation confers targeted ER proteostasis reprogramming

Nat Chem Biol. 2020 Oct;16(10):1052-1061. doi: 10.1038/s41589-020-0584-z. Epub 2020 Jul 20.


Activation of the IRE1/XBP1s signaling arm of the unfolded protein response (UPR) is a promising strategy to correct defects in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) proteostasis implicated in diverse diseases. However, no pharmacologic activators of this pathway identified to date are suitable for ER proteostasis remodeling through selective activation of IRE1/XBP1s signaling. Here, we use high-throughput screening to identify non-toxic compounds that induce ER proteostasis remodeling through IRE1/XBP1s activation. We employ transcriptional profiling to stringently confirm that our prioritized compounds selectively activate IRE1/XBP1s signaling without activating other cellular stress-responsive signaling pathways. Furthermore, we demonstrate that our compounds improve ER proteostasis of destabilized variants of amyloid precursor protein (APP) through an IRE1-dependent mechanism and reduce APP-associated mitochondrial toxicity in cellular models. These results establish highly selective IRE1/XBP1s activating compounds that can be widely employed to define the functional importance of IRE1/XBP1s activity for ER proteostasis regulation in the context of health and disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cellular Reprogramming Techniques
  • Drug Discovery / methods
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / drug effects
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / physiology*
  • Endoribonucleases / genetics
  • Endoribonucleases / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Protein Unfolding
  • Proteostasis / drug effects*
  • Unfolded Protein Response / drug effects*
  • X-Box Binding Protein 1 / genetics
  • X-Box Binding Protein 1 / metabolism*


  • X-Box Binding Protein 1
  • XBP1 protein, human
  • ERN1 protein, human
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Endoribonucleases