Pharmacological induction of selective endoplasmic reticulum retention as a strategy for cancer therapy

The integrated stress response (ISR) converges on eIF2α phosphorylation to regulate protein synthesis. ISR is activated by several stress conditions, including endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, executed by protein kinase R-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK). We report that ER stress combined with ISR inhibition causes an impaired maturation of several tyrosine kinase receptors (RTKs), consistent with a partial block of their trafficking from the ER to the Golgi. Other proteins mature or are secreted normally, indicating selective retention in the ER (sERr). sERr is relieved upon protein synthesis attenuation and is accompanied by the generation of large mixed disulfide bonded complexes, including ERp44. sERr was pharmacologically recapitulated by combining the HIV-protease inhibitor nelfinavir with ISRIB, an experimental drug that inhibits ISR. Nelfinavir/ISRIB combination is highly effective to inhibit the growth of RTK-addicted cell lines and hepatocellular (HCC) cells in vitro and in vivo (Mahameed et al. 2020. Nature Communications 11: 1304; Thus, pharmacological sERr can be utilized as a modality for cancer treatment. [this research was funded by a grant from the German-Israeli Foundation to Profs. Boaz Tirosh and Michael Huber]


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