Pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons function as key regulators of metabolism and physiology by releasing prohormone-derived neuropeptides with distinct biological activities. However, our understanding of early events in prohormone maturation in the ER remains incomplete. Highlighting the significance of this gap in knowledge, a single POMC cysteine-to-phenylalanine mutation at position 28 (POMC-C28F) is defective for ER processing and causes early onset obesity in a dominant-negative manner in humans through an unclear mechanism. Here, we report a pathologically important role of Sel1L-Hrd1, the protein complex of ER-associated degradation (ERAD), within POMC neurons. Mice with POMC neuron–specific Sel1L deficiency developed age-associated obesity due, at least in part, to the ER retention of POMC that led to hyperphagia. The Sel1L-Hrd1 complex targets a fraction of nascent POMC molecules for ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation, preventing accumulation of misfolded and aggregated POMC, thereby ensuring that another fraction of POMC can undergo normal posttranslational processing and trafficking for secretion. Moreover, we found that the disease-associated POMC-C28F mutant evades ERAD and becomes aggregated due to the presence of a highly reactive unpaired cysteine thiol at position 50. Thus, this study not only identifies ERAD as an important mechanism regulating POMC maturation within the ER, but also provides insights into the pathogenesis of monogenic obesity associated with defective prohormone folding.
Geun Hyang Kim, Guojun Shi, Diane R.M. Somlo, Leena Haataja, Soobin Song, Qiaoming Long, Eduardo A. Nillni, Malcolm J. Low, Peter Arvan, Martin G. Myers Jr., Ling Qi
Guidelines: The Editorial Board will only consider letters that we deem relevant and of interest to our readers. We will not post data that have not been subjected to peer review, nor will we post letters that are essentially a reiteration of another letter. All accepted letters will be posted on our website within one week of acceptance. We reserve the right to edit any letter for length, content, and clarity. Authors of all accepted letters will be asked to preview any changes. Authors will be notified by e-mail if their letters were not accepted. As this is a final decision, no appeals will be considered.
Specific requirements: All letters must be 400 words or fewer. You may enter the letter as plain text or HTML. The author's name and e-mail address are required, and will be posted with the letter. All possible conflicts of interest must be noted, even if they are not posted. If you wish to include a figure (keep in mind that non-peer-reviewed data will not be posted), please contact the editors directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.