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PLoS One. 2011;6(5):e19321. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019321. Epub 2011 May 16.

The involvement of SMILE/TMTC3 in endoplasmic reticulum stress response.

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  • 1Institut National de la Santé Et de la Recherche Médicale Unité Mixte de Recherche 643, Nantes, France.



The state of operational tolerance has been detected sporadically in some renal transplanted patients that stopped immunosuppressive drugs, demonstrating that allograft tolerance might exist in humans. Several years ago, a study by Brouard et al. identified a molecular signature of several genes that were significantly differentially expressed in the blood of such patients compared with patients with other clinical situations. The aim of the present study is to analyze the role of one of these molecules over-expressed in the blood of operationally tolerant patients, SMILE or TMTC3, a protein whose function is still unknown.


We first confirmed that SMILE mRNA is differentially expressed in the blood of operationally tolerant patients with drug-free long term graft function compared to stable and rejecting patients. Using a yeast two-hybrid approach and a colocalization study by confocal microscopy we furthermore report an interaction of SMILE with PDIA3, a molecule resident in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). In accordance with this observation, SMILE silencing in HeLa cells correlated with the modulation of several transcripts involved in proteolysis and a decrease in proteasome activity. Finally, SMILE silencing increased HeLa cell sensitivity to the proteasome inhibitor Bortezomib, a drug that induces ER stress via protein overload, and increased transcript expression of a stress response protein, XBP-1, in HeLa cells and keratinocytes.


In this study we showed that SMILE is involved in the endoplasmic reticulum stress response, by modulating proteasome activity and XBP-1 transcript expression. This function of SMILE may influence immune cell behavior in the context of transplantation, and the analysis of endoplasmic reticulum stress in transplantation may reveal new pathways of regulation in long-term graft acceptance thereby increasing our understanding of tolerance.

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