Loss-of-function mutations of the protein kinase PERK (EIF2AK3) in humans and mice cause permanent neonatal diabetes and severe proinsulin aggregation in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), highlighting the essential role of PERK in insulin production in pancreatic cells. As PERK is generally known as a translational regulator of the unfolded protein response (UPR), the underlying cause of these cell defects has often been attributed to derepression of proinsulin synthesis, resulting in proinsulin overload in the ER. Using high-resolution imaging and standard protein fractionation and immunological methods we have examined the PERK-dependent phenotype more closely. We found that whereas proinsulin aggregation requires new protein synthesis, global protein and proinsulin synthesis are down-regulated in PERK-inhibited cells, strongly arguing against proinsulin overproduction being the root cause of their aberrant ER phenotype. Furthermore, we show that PERK regulates proinsulin proteostasis by modulating ER chaperones, including BiP and ERp72. Transgenic overexpression of BiP and BiP knockdown (KD) both promoted proinsulin aggregation, whereas ERp72 overexpression and knockdown rescued it. These findings underscore the importance of ER chaperones working in concert to achieve control of insulin production and identify a role for PERK in maintaining a functional balance among these chaperones.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology