The binary switch between life and death of endoplasmic reticulum-stressed beta cells

UMMS Affiliation

Program in Gene Function and Expression; Program in Molecular Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Animals; Cell Death; Cell Survival; Endoplasmic Reticulum; Humans; Insulin-Secreting Cells; Models, Biological; Protein Folding; Signal Transduction; Stress, Physiological; Unfolded Protein Response


Genetics and Genomics


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: beta-Cell death is an important pathogenic component of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. However, the specific molecular pathways and interactions involved in this process are not completely understood. Increasing evidence indicates that a type of cell stress called endoplasmic reticulum stress (ER stress) plays an important role in beta-cell death. In the present article, we discuss a potential paradigm of ER stress-mediated beta-cell death.

RECENT FINDINGS: Upon ER stress conditions, a signaling network termed the unfolded protein response (UPR) is activated. The UPR regulates adaptive effectors to attenuate ER stress and restore ER homeostasis promoting cell survival. Paradoxically the UPR also regulates apoptotic effectors. When adaptive effectors fail to attenuate ER stress, these apoptotic effectors take into effect leading to cell death. The nature of this switch between life and death is currently under study.

SUMMARY: Depending on the nature of the stress condition, the UPR either protects beta cells or promotes their death. The mechanisms of this switch are not well understood but involve the balance between adaptive and apoptotic factors regulated by the UPR. In the present article, we review examples of this UPR balancing act between life and death and the potential mechanisms involved.

DOI of Published Version



Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2010 Apr;17(2):107-12. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Current opinion in endocrinology, diabetes, and obesity

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID