ER Stress in Pancreatic β Cells: The Thin Red Line Between Adaptation and Failure

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Sci. Signal.  23 Feb 2010:
Vol. 3, Issue 110, pp. pe7
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.3110pe7

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Secretory cells, such as pancreatic β cells, face the challenge of increasing protein synthesis severalfold during acute or chronic stimulation. This poses a burden on the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), the organelle where proinsulin synthesis and folding takes place. Thus, β cells use various adaptive mechanisms to adjust the functional capacity of the ER to the prevailing demand. These check-and-balance mechanisms are collectively known as the unfolded protein response (UPR). It remains unclear how UPR signaling is ultimately regulated and what delineates the boundaries between a physiological and a pathological response. New discoveries point to the divergent effects of acute and chronic metabolic fluxes and chemical ER stressors on the formation of complexes among UPR transducers, scaffold proteins, and phosphatases. These and other findings provide a first glimpse on how different signals trigger diverging UPR outcomes.

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