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Disease-related misassembly of membrane proteins.

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Department of Biochemistry and Center for Structural Biology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee 37232-8725, USA.


Medical genetics so far has identified approximately 16,000 missense mutations leading to single amino acid changes in protein sequences that are linked to human disease. A majority of these mutations affect folding or trafficking, rather than specifically affecting protein function. Many disease-linked mutations occur in integral membrane proteins, a class of proteins about whose folding we know very little. We examine the phenomenon of disease-linked misassembly of membrane proteins and describe model systems currently being used to study the delicate balance between proper folding and misassembly. We review a mechanism by which cells recognize membrane proteins with a high potential to misfold before they actually do, and which targets these culprits for degradation. Serious disease phenotypes can result from loss of protein function and from misfolded proteins that the cells cannot degrade, leading to accumulation of toxic aggregates. Misassembly may be averted by small-molecule drugs that bind and stabilize the native state.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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