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Am J Hum Genet. 2010 May 14;86(5):719-29. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2010.03.017. Epub 2010 Apr 15.

Gene expression and genetic variation in response to endoplasmic reticulum stress in human cells.

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Department of Genetics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


The accumulation of unfolded or misfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) results in the condition called "ER stress," which induces the unfolded protein response (UPR), a complex cellular process that includes changes in expression of many genes. Failure to restore homeostasis in the ER is associated with human diseases. To identify the underlying changes in gene expression in response to ER stress, we induced ER stress in human B cells and then measured gene expression at ten time points. We followed up those results by studying cells from 60 unrelated people. We rediscovered genes that were known to play a role in the ER-stress response and uncovered several thousand genes that are not known to be involved. Two of these are VLDLR and INHBE, which showed significant increase in expression after ER stress in B cells and in primary fibroblasts. To study the links between UPR and disease susceptibility, we identified ER-stress-responsive genes that are associated with human diseases and assessed individual differences in the ER-stress response. Many of the UPR genes are associated with Mendelian disorders, such as Wolfram syndrome, and complex diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and diabetes. Data from two independent samples showed extensive individual variability in ER-stress response. Additional analyses with monozygotic twins revealed significant correlations within twin pairs in their responses to ER stress, thus showing evidence for heritable variation among individuals. These results have implications for basic understanding of ER function and its role in disease susceptibility.

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