The UPR (unfolded protein response) activates transcription of genes involved in proteasomal degradation. However, we found that in its early stages the UPR leads to a transient inhibition of proteasomal disposal of cytosolic substrates (p53 and p27kip1) and of those targeted to ER (endoplasmic reticulum)-associated degradation (uncleaved precursor of asialoglycoprotein receptor H2a). Degradation resumed soon after the protein synthesis arrest that occurs in early UPR subsided. Consistent with this, protein synthesis inhibitors blocked ubiquitin/proteasomal degradation. Ubiquitination was inhibited during the translation block, suggesting short-lived E3 ubiquitin ligases as candidate depleted proteins. This was indeed the case for p53 whose E3 ligase, Mdm2 (murine double minute 2), when overexpressed, restored the degradation, whereas a mutant Mdm2 in its acidic domain restored the ubiquitination but did not completely restore the degradation. Inhibition of proteasomal degradation early in UPR may prevent depletion of essential short-lived factors during the translation arrest. Stabilization of p27 through this mechanism may explain the cell cycle arrest in G1 when translation is blocked by inhibitors or by the UPR.

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