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J Cell Commun Signal. 2014 Dec;8(4):311-21. doi: 10.1007/s12079-014-0251-9. Epub 2014 Oct 30.

Getting the better of ER stress.

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Laboratory of Molecular Biology of the Cell, UMR5239 CNRS/Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, UMS 3444 Biosciences Lyon Gerland, University of Lyon, Lyon, France,


Research over the past few years has highlighted the ability of the unfolded protein response (UPR) to minimize the deleterious effects of accumulated misfolded proteins under both physiological and pathological conditions. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) adapts to endogenous and exogenous stressors by expanding its protein-folding capacity and by stimulating protective processes such as autophagy and antioxidant responses. Although it is clear that severe ER stress can elicit cell death, several recent studies have shown that low levels of ER stress may actually be beneficial to cells by eliciting an adaptive UPR that 'preconditions' the cell to a subsequent lethal insult; this process is called ER hormesis. The findings have important implications for the treatment of a wide variety of diseases associated with defective proteostasis, including neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, and cancer. Here, we review the physiological and pathological functions of the ER, with a particular focus on the molecular mechanisms that lead to ER hormesis and cellular protection, and discuss the implications for disease treatment.

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