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Traffic. 2004 Nov;5(11):821-37.

Pharmacologic rescue of conformationally-defective proteins: implications for the treatment of human disease.

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Oregon National Primate Research Center, Oregon Health & Science University, Beaverton, OR, USA.


The process of quality control in the endoplasmic reticulum involves a variety of mechanisms which ensure that only correctly folded proteins enter the secretory pathway. Among these are conformation-screening mechanisms performed by molecular chaperones that assist in protein folding and prevent non-native (or misfolded) proteins from interacting with other misfolded proteins. Chaperones play a central role in the triage of newly formed proteins prior to their entry into the secretion, retention, and degradation pathways. Despite this stringent quality control mechanism, gain- or loss-of-function mutations that affect protein folding in the endoplasmic reticulum can manifest themselves as profound effects on the health of an organism. Understanding the molecular, cellular, and energetic mechanisms of protein routing could prevent or correct the structural abnormalities associated with disease-causing misfolded proteins. Rescue of misfolded, "trafficking-defective", but otherwise functional, proteins is achieved by a variety of physical, chemical, genetic, and pharmacological approaches. Pharmacologic chaperones (or "pharmacoperones") are template molecules that may potentially arrest or reverse diseases by inducing mutant proteins to adopt native-type-like conformations instead of improperly folded ones. Such restructuring leads to a normal pattern of cellular localization and function. This review focuses on protein misfolding and misrouting related to various disease states and describes promising approaches to overcoming such defects. Special attention is paid to the gonadotropin-releasing hormone receptor, since there is a great deal of information about this receptor, which has recently emerged as a particularly instructive model.

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