Cell death & disease

Androgen receptor inclusions acquire GRP78/BiP to ameliorate androgen-induced protein misfolding stress in embryonic stem cells.

PMID 23618905


Commitment of differentiating embryonic stem cells (ESCs) toward the various lineages is influenced by many factors, including androgens. However, the mechanisms underlying proteotoxic stress conferred by androgen receptor (AR) actions on embryonic cell fate remains unclear. Here we show that mouse ESCs display stress-related cellular phenotypes in response to androgens during early phase of differentiation. Androgen induced a significant increase in the percentage of ESCs and embryoid bodies with the intranuclear and juxtanuclear AR inclusions, which were colocalized with the E3 ubiquitin ligase, C terminus of Hsc70-interacting protein. Caspase-3 activity corresponded with AR expression, was enhanced in cells engaged more differentiation phenotypes. Androgen-mediated accumulation of AR aggregates exacerbated endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and rendered ESCs susceptible to apoptosis. Increasing expression levels of the ER chaperones, GRP78/BiP and GRP94, as well as ER stress markers, such as ATF6, phosphorylated PERK, GADD153/CHOP and spliced XBP-1 mRNA, were dramatically elevated in ESCs overexpressing AR. We found that androgen induced GRP78/BiP to dissociate from ATF6, and act as an AR-interacting protein, which was recruited into AR inclusions in ESCs. GRP78/BiP was also colocalized with AR inclusions in the cells of spinal bulbar muscular atrophy transgenic mouse model. Overexpression of GRP78/BiP suppressed ubiquitination of AR aggregates and ameliorated the misfolded AR-mediated cytopathology in ESCs, whereas knockdown of GRP78/BiP increased the accumulation of AR aggregates and significantly higher levels of caspase-3 activity and cell apoptosis. These results generate novel insight into how ESCs respond to stress induced by misfolded AR proteins and identify GRP78/BiP as a novel regulator of the AR protein quality control.