The ability of mammalian cells to correctly identify and degrade misfolded secretory proteins, most of them bearing N-glycans, is crucial for their correct function and survival. An inefficient disposal mechanism results in the accumulation of misfolded proteins and consequent endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. N-glycan processing creates a code that reveals the folding status of each molecule, enabling continued folding attempts or targeting of the doomed glycoprotein for disposal. We review here the main steps involved in the accurate processing of unfolded glycoproteins. We highlight recent data suggesting that the processing is not stochastic, but that there is selective accelerated glycan trimming on misfolded glycoprotein molecules.
- ER quality control