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Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2011 Apr;23(2):207-15. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2010 Dec 16.

The binary switch that controls the life and death decisions of ER stressed β cells.

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Program in Gene Function and Expression, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01605, USA.


Diabetes mellitus is a group of common metabolic disorders defined by hyperglycemia. One of the most important factors contributing to hyperglycemia is dysfunction and death of β cells. Increasing experimental, clinical, and genetic evidence indicates that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress plays an important role in β cell dysfunction and death during the progression of type 1 and type 2 diabetes as well as genetic forms of diabetes such as Wolfram syndrome. The mechanisms of ER stress-mediated β cell dysfunction and death are complex and not homogenous. Here we review the recent key findings on the role of ER stress and the unfolded protein response (UPR) in β cells and the mechanisms of ER stress-mediated β cell dysfunction and death. Complete understanding of these mechanisms will lead to novel therapeutic modalities for diabetes.

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