Cancer is associated with a number of conditions such as hypoxia, nutrient deprivation, cellular redox, and pH changes that result in accumulation of unfolded or misfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and trigger a stress response known as the unfolded protein response (UPR). The UPR is a conserved cellular survival mechanism mediated by the ER transmembrane proteins activating transcription factor 6, protein kinase-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase, and inositol-requiring enzyme 1α (IRE1α) that act to resolve ER stress and promote cell survival. IRE1α is a kinase/endoribonuclease (RNase) with multiple activities including unconventional splicing of the messenger RNA (mRNA) for the transcription factor X-Box Binding Protein 1 (XBP1), degradation of other mRNAs in a process called regulated IRE1α-dependent decay (RIDD) and activation of a pathway leading to c-Jun N-terminal kinase phosphorylation. Each of these outputs plays a role in the adaptive and cell death responses to ER stress. Many studies indicate an important role for XBP1 and RIDD functions in cancer and new studies suggest that these two functions of the IRE1α RNase can have opposing functions in the early and later stages of cancer pathogenesis. Finally, as more is learned about the context-dependent role of IRE1α in cancer development, specific small molecule inhibitors and activators of IRE1α could play an important role in counteracting the protective shield provided by ER stress signaling in cancer cells.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research