The EMBO journal

Cytosolic thioredoxin reductase 1 is required for correct disulfide formation in the ER.

PMID 28093500


Folding of proteins entering the secretory pathway in mammalian cells frequently requires the insertion of disulfide bonds. Disulfide insertion can result in covalent linkages found in the native structure as well as those that are not, so-called non-native disulfides. The pathways for disulfide formation are well characterized, but our understanding of how non-native disulfides are reduced so that the correct or native disulfides can form is poor. Here, we use a novel assay to demonstrate that the reduction in non-native disulfides requires NADPH as the ultimate electron donor, and a robust cytosolic thioredoxin system, driven by thioredoxin reductase 1 (TrxR1 or TXNRD1). Inhibition of this reductive pathway prevents the correct folding and secretion of proteins that are known to form non-native disulfides during their folding. Hence, we have shown for the first time that mammalian cells have a pathway for transferring reducing equivalents from the cytosol to the ER, which is required to ensure correct disulfide formation in proteins entering the secretory pathway.