Alleviating Chronic ER Stress by p38-Ire1-Xbp1 Pathway and Insulin-associated Autophagy in C. elegans Neurons

Liying Guan, Zhigao Zhan, Yongzhi Yang, Yue Miao, Xun Huang, Mei Ding

PLoS Genetics


ER stress occurs in many physiological and pathological conditions. However, how chronic ER stress is alleviated in specific cells in an intact organism is an outstanding question. Here, overexpressing the gap junction protein UNC-9 (Uncoordinated) in C. elegans neurons triggers the Ire1-Xbp1-mediated stress response in an age-dependent and cell-autonomous manner. The p38 MAPK PMK-3 regulates the chronic stress through IRE-1 phosphorylation. Overexpressing gap junction protein also activates autophagy. The insulin pathway functions through autophagy, but not the transcription of genes encoding ER chaperones, to counteract the p38-Ire1-Xbp1-mediated stress response. Together, these results reveal an intricate cellular regulatory network in response to chronic stress in a subset of cells in multicellular organism.