Many proteins of the secretory pathway contain disulfide bonds that are essential for structure and function. In the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), Ero1α and Ero1β oxidize protein disulfide isomerase (PDI), which in turn transfers oxidative equivalents to newly synthesized cargo proteins. However, oxidation must be limited, as some reduced PDI is necessary for disulfide isomerization and ER-associated degradation. Here we show that in semipermeable cells, PDI is more oxidized, disulfide bonds are formed faster, and high molecular mass covalent protein aggregates accumulate in the absence of cytosol. Addition of reduced glutathione (GSH) reduces PDI and restores normal disulfide formation rates. A higher GSH concentration is needed to balance oxidative folding in semipermeable cells overexpressing Ero1α, indicating that cytosolic GSH and lumenal Ero1α play antagonistic roles in controlling the ER redox. Moreover, the overexpression of Ero1α significantly increases the GSH content in HeLa cells. Our data demonstrate tight connections between ER and cytosol to guarantee redox exchange across compartments: a reducing cytosol is important to ensure disulfide isomerization in secretory proteins.
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