Proteostasis, an optimal state of the cellular proteome, is constantly challenged by intrinsic stress, such as inherited misfolding-prone proteins, environment, and aging. Proteostasis deficiency in ion channels leads to a variety of ion channel diseases called channelopathies, which are often caused by excessive endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation (ERAD) and inefficient membrane trafficking of corresponding ion channel proteins harboring misfolding-prone mutations. We use gamma- aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) receptors, the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter-gated ion channels in the mammalian central nervous systems, as a representative ion channel, to elucidate their folding and ERAD pathway in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The interaction between GABAA receptors and a network of proteins in cells is critical to maintain the folding, degradation, trafficking, and thus function of GABAA receptors. However, the molecular mechanism of maintaining GABAA receptor proteostasis is not well understood. Idiopathic epilepsy has a strong genetic linkage to loss of function of GABAA receptors. We focus on studying missense mutations that lead to misfolding, extensive degradation, and thus loss of function of mutant GABAA receptors. Our long term goal is to perform a detailed molecular mechanism study to elucidate how the folding, assembly, degradation of GABAA receptors are regulated in cells and use the principles acquired to correct epilepsy-associated misfolded GABAA receptors. Here, in Specific Aim 1, we aim to elucidate a coordinated engagement of chaperones and folding enzymes in directing the folding of GABAA receptors in the ER.
In Specific Aim 2, we aim to determine the ERAD pathway of misfolding-prone mutant GABAA receptors.
In Specific Aim 3, we propose to remodel the ER proteostasis network to correct the misfolding and function of pathogenic GABAA receptors. This proposed research will provide proof-of-principle cases about restoring proteostasis to ameliorate genetic epilepsy resulting from GABAA receptor misfolding.

Public Health Relevance

Idiopathic epilepsy has a strong genetic linkage to loss of function of GABAA receptors, the primary inhibitory ion channels in the human brain. Numerous mutations in the receptors cause their protein misfolding and excessive degradation, resulting in reduced receptor function and thus epilepsy. Here, we propose to elucidate the molecular mechanism of their folding and degradation and use the principles acquired to correct the mutant receptor misfolding and thus function, representing a novel strategy to ameliorate epilepsy.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Biophysics of Neural Systems Study Section (BPNS)
Program Officer
Churn, Severn Borden
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Case Western Reserve University
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Fu, Yan-Lin; Han, Dong-Yun; Wang, Ya-Juan et al. (2018) Remodeling the endoplasmic reticulum proteostasis network restores proteostasis of pathogenic GABAA receptors. PLoS One 13:e0207948