The human signal peptidase complex acts as a quality control enzyme for membrane proteins

Science. 2022 Dec 2;378(6623):996-1000. doi: 10.1126/science.abo5672. Epub 2022 Dec 1.


Cells need to detect and degrade faulty membrane proteins to maintain homeostasis. In this study, we identify a previously unknown function of the human signal peptidase complex (SPC)-the enzyme that removes endoplasmic reticulum (ER) signal peptides-as a membrane protein quality control factor. We show that the SPC cleaves membrane proteins that fail to correctly fold or assemble into their native complexes at otherwise hidden cleavage sites, which our study reveals to be abundant in the human membrane proteome. This posttranslocational cleavage synergizes with ER-associated degradation to sustain membrane protein homeostasis and contributes to cellular fitness. Cryptic SPC cleavage sites thus serve as predetermined breaking points that, when exposed, help to target misfolded or surplus proteins for degradation, thereby maintaining a healthy membrane proteome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Endoplasmic Reticulum*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum-Associated Degradation*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins* / metabolism
  • Proteolysis
  • Proteome
  • Serine Endopeptidases*


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Proteome
  • type I signal peptidase
  • Serine Endopeptidases