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EMBO J. 2012 May 16;31(10):2322-35. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2012.84. Epub 2012 Apr 17.

BH3-only proteins are part of a regulatory network that control the sustained signalling of the unfolded protein response sensor IRE1α.

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Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Center for Molecular Studies of the Cell, Santiago, Chile.


Adaptation to endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress depends on the activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR) stress sensor inositol-requiring enzyme 1α (IRE1α), which functions as an endoribonuclease that splices the mRNA of the transcription factor XBP-1 (X-box-binding protein-1). Through a global proteomic approach we identified the BCL-2 family member PUMA as a novel IRE1α interactor. Immun oprecipitation experiments confirmed this interaction and further detected the association of IRE1α with BIM, another BH3-only protein. BIM and PUMA double-knockout cells failed to maintain sustained XBP-1 mRNA splicing after prolonged ER stress, resulting in early inactivation. Mutation in the BH3 domain of BIM abrogated the physical interaction with IRE1α, inhibiting its effects on XBP-1 mRNA splicing. Unexpectedly, this regulation required BCL-2 and was antagonized by BAD or the BH3 domain mimetic ABT-737. The modulation of IRE1α RNAse activity by BH3-only proteins was recapitulated in a cell-free system suggesting a direct regulation. Moreover, BH3-only proteins controlled XBP-1 mRNA splicing in vivo and affected the ER stress-regulated secretion of antibodies by primary B cells. We conclude that a subset of BCL-2 family members participates in a new UPR-regulatory network, thus assuming apoptosis-unrelated functions.

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