ABSTRACT: α(1)-Antitrypsin is a serine protease inhibitor secreted by hepatocytes. A variant of α(1)-antitrypsin with an E342K (Z) mutation (ATZ) has propensity to form polymers, is retained in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), is degraded by both ER-associated degradation and autophagy, and causes hepatocyte loss. Constant features in hepatocytes of PiZZ individuals and in PiZ transgenic mice expressing ATZ are the formation of membrane-limited globular inclusions containing ATZ and mitochondrial damage. Expression of ATZ in the liver does not induce the unfolded protein response (UPR), a protective mechanism aimed to maintain ER homeostasis in the face of an increased load of proteins. Here we found that in hepatoma cells the ER E3 ligase HRD1 functioned to degrade most of the ATZ before globular inclusions are formed. Activation of the activating transcription factor 6 (ATF6) branch of the UPR by expression of spliced ATF6(1-373) decreased intracellular accumulation of ATZ and the formation of globular inclusions by a pathway that required HRD1 and the proteasome. Expression of ATF6(1-373) in ATZ-expressing hepatoma cells did not induce autophagy and increased the level of the proapoptotic factor CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein (C/EBP) homologous protein (CHOP) but did not lead to apoptotic DNA fragmentation. Expression of ATF6(1-373) did not cause inhibition of protein synthesis and prevented mitochondrial damage induced by ATZ expression. It was concluded that activation of the ATF6 pathway of the UPR limits ATZ-dependent cell toxicity by selectively promoting ER-associated degradation of ATZ and is thereby a potential target to prevent hepatocyte loss in addition to autophagy-enhancing drugs.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 12/2011; 286(48):41563-77. · 4.77 Impact Factor