A similar quality-control molecular chaperone, calnexin, performs the same service for soluble proteins as does calreticulin, however it is a membrane-bound protein. Both proteins, calnexin and calreticulin, have the function of binding to oligosaccharides containing terminal glucose residues, thereby targeting them for degradation. Calreticulin and Calnexin's ability to bind carbohydrates associates them with the lectin protein family. In normal cellular function, trimming of glucose residues off the core oligosaccharide added during N-linked glycosylation is a part of protein processing. If "overseer" enzymes note that residues are misfolded, proteins within the rER will re-add glucose residues so that other calreticulin/calnexin can bind to these proteins and prevent them from proceeding to the Golgi. This leads these aberrantly folded proteins down a path whereby they are targeted for degradation.
Studies on transgenic mice reveal that calreticulin is a cardiac embryonic gene that is essential during development.
Calreticulin and calnexin are also integral proteins in the production of MHC class I Proteins. As newly synthesized MHC class I ?-chains enter the endoplasmic reticulum, calnexin binds on to them retaining them in a partly folded state. After the ?2-microglobulin binds to the peptide-loading complex (PLC), calreticulin (along with ERp57) takes over the job of chaperoning the MHC class I protein while the tapasin links the complex to the transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP) complex. This association prepares the MHC class I for binding an antigen for presentation on the cell surface.
Calreticulin is also found in the nucleus, suggesting that it may have a role in transcription regulation. Calreticulin binds to the synthetic peptide KLGFFKR, which is almost identical to an amino acid sequence in the DNA-binding domain of the superfamily of nuclear receptors. The amino terminus of calreticulin interacts with the DNA-binding domain of the glucocorticoid receptor and prevents the receptor from binding to its specific glucocorticoid response element. Calreticulin can inhibit the binding of androgen receptor to its hormone-responsive DNA element and can inhibit androgen receptor and retinoic acid receptor transcriptional activities in vivo, as well as retinoic acid-induced neuronal differentiation. Thus, calreticulin can act as an important modulator of the regulation of gene transcription by nuclear hormone receptors.
Calreticulin binds to antibodies in certain area of systemic lupus and Sjögren patients that contain anti-Ro/SSA antibodies. Systemic lupus erythematosus is associated with increased autoantibody titers against calreticulin, but calreticulin is not a Ro/SS-A antigen. Earlier papers referred to calreticulin as an Ro/SS-A antigen, but this was later disproven. Increased autoantibody titer against human calreticulin is found in infants with complete congenital heart block of both the IgG and IgM classes.
Calreticulin (CRT) is expressed in many cancer cells and plays a role to promote macrophages to engulf hazardous cancerous cells. The reason why most of the cells are not destroyed is the presence of another molecule with signal CD47, which blocks CRT. Hence antibodies that block CD47 might be useful as a cancer treatment. In mice models of myeloid leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, anti-CD47 were effective in clearing cancer cells while normal cells were unaffected.
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