Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Anatomy and Cell Biology

First Advisor

Rutkowski, D Thomas

First Committee Member

Gonzalez-Alegre, Pedro

Second Committee Member

Domann, Frederick

Third Committee Member

Yeaman, Charles

Fourth Committee Member

Banfi, Botond


The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) facilitates the synthesis, assembly and quality control of all secretory, transmembrane, and resident proteins of the endomembrane system. An accumulation of unfolded proteins or a disruption in the specialized folding environment within the organelle causes ER stress, thus impairing the folding capacity of the ER. In response to this stress, the ER initiates a signaling cascade called the unfolded protein response (UPR) in an attempt to restore ER homeostasis.

The vertebrate UPR is propagated by three ER-resident transmembrane proteins (i.e., PERK, IRE1α, and ATF6α), each initiating a signaling cascade that ultimately culminates in production of a transcriptional activator. The UPR was originally characterized as a pathway for the upregulation of ER chaperones, and a comprehensive body of subsequent work has shown that protein synthesis, folding, oxidation, trafficking, and degradation are all transcriptionally enhanced by the UPR. However, UPR activation is also accompanied by extensive mRNA suppression. The mechanisms responsible for this suppression and its consequences for physiological processes beyond the realm of ER protein folding and processing are only now beginning to be described.

The overall goal of my thesis work was to explore this process of UPR-mediated gene suppression by identifying the mechanisms involved and the cellular processes affected. As a result, I characterized a novel mechanism of UPR-mediated transcriptional repression involving the translational regulation of the transcription factor C/EBPβ resulting in the suppression of the gene Il4ra, encoding an essential subunit of the IL-4/IL-13 receptor. As a consequence of this suppression, a novel effect of ER stress was identified in the impairment of IL-4/IL-13 signaling, a finding of potential significance in the study of inflammatory disease. In addition to this mechanism, I validated a novel approach to the identification of UPR-regulated transcription factors using publically available bioinformatic software. Through this analysis, I identified the transcription factor HNF4α as a novel post-translational UPR-regulated transcription factor, the regulation of which, resulted in the suppression of a number of lipid metabolic genes. This analysis not only identified a novel UPR-regulated transcription factor, but also presented a new tool for the characterization of UPR-mediated gene suppression.

My work represents an independent and original investigation into the process of UPR-mediated gene suppression; and reveals that the UPR facilitates transcriptional suppression through the transcriptional, translational, and post-translational regulation of multiple transcription factors, resulting in the coordinated attenuation of physiological pathways. This function of the UPR is likely to contribute to metabolic, inflammatory, and other chronic disease states.


ER stress, Gene suppression, Signaling cascades, Unfolded protein Response


ix, 91 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 84-91).


Copyright 2013 Angela Marie Arensdorf

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Cell Anatomy Commons