Decline of proteostasis in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is thought to underlie molecular changes in β cell function and drive the pathogenesis of diabetes. ER-associated degradation (ERAD) and macroautophagy (hereafter “autophagy”) are two principal quality-control mechanisms responsible for the clearance of ER-resident proteins or protein aggregates, respectively, in the cell. However, the physiological significance of ERAD-autophagy crosstalk remains unexplored. Previously, using β cell-specific knockout mouse models, we reported that ERAD deficiency leads to β cell dedifferentiation, while autophagy deficiency leads to β cell loss by 4-5 months of age. Interestingly, we observed that loss of ERAD in β cells triggered activation of autophagy pathways, as monitored by LC3 flux. Furthermore, chloroquine-mediated inhibition of autophagy in ERAD-deficient islets led to an increased proinsulin aggregation. In mice, combined deletion of ERAD and autophagy in β cells caused marked hyperglycemia soon after weaning, with extensive loss of β cells and premature death at 2-3 months of age. Thus, our data demonstrate that ERAD and autophagy act synergistically to prevent proinsulin aggregation and promote β cell survival. This study reveals a critical role for crosstalk between the ERAD and autophagy pathways in preventing diabetes and provides the first evidence for synergism between ERAD and autophagy in vivo.


N. Shrestha: None. R.B. Reinert: None. P. Arvan: None. L. Qi: None.


JDRF (2-SRA-2018-539-A-B); National Institutes of Health (1R01DK117639-01, 1R01DK111174)

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