The ER (endoplasmic reticulum) is the protein folding ‘factory’ of the secretory pathway. Virtually all proteins destined for the plasma membrane, the extracellular space or other secretory compartments undergo folding and maturation within the ER. The ER hosts a unique PQC (protein quality control) system that allows specialized modifications such as glycosylation and disulfide bond formation essential for the correct folding and function of many secretory proteins. It is also the major checkpoint for misfolded or aggregation-prone proteins that may be toxic to the cell or extracellular environment. A failure of this system, due to aging or other factors, has therefore been implicated in a number of serious human diseases. In this article, we discuss several key features of ER PQC that maintain the health of the cellular secretome.

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