Discrimination between properly folded proteins and those that do not reach this state is necessary for cells to achieve functionality. Eukaryotic cells have evolved several mechanisms to ensure secretory protein quality control, which allows efficiency and fidelity in protein production. Among the actors involved in such process, both endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the Golgi complex play prominent roles in protein synthesis, biogenesis and secretion. ER and Golgi functions ensure that only properly folded proteins are allowed to flow through the secretory pathway while improperly folded proteins have to be eliminated to not impinge on cellular functions. Thus, complex quality control and degradation machineries are crucial to prevent the toxic accumulation of improperly folded proteins. However, in some instances, improperly folded proteins can escape the quality control systems thereby contributing to several human diseases. Herein, we summarize how the early secretory pathways copes with the accumulation of improperly folded proteins, and how insufficient handling can cause the development of several human diseases. Finally, we detail the genetic and pharmacologic approaches that could be used as potential therapeutic tools to treat these diseases.
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