The Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum: Protein Processing Organelle

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What distinguishes the rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER) from the smooth endoplasmic reticulum?

Ribosome-studded surface

Which organelle is responsible for synthesizing proteins on the outer surface of the rough endoplasmic reticulum?


How is the rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER) visually different from the smooth endoplasmic reticulum?

Bumpy appearance

What is the main function of the ribosomes bound to the outer surface of the rough endoplasmic reticulum?

Protein synthesis

Which cellular compartment receives newly synthesized proteins from the rough endoplasmic reticulum for further processing?

Golgi apparatus

What is the main protein translocation machinery responsible for polypeptide chain movement into the ER lumen?

Sec61 complex

Which of the following is NOT a post-translational modification that proteins undergo in the ER lumen?


What is the consequence for a protein that fails to fold correctly in the ER?

It is targeted for degradation

How does dysfunction of the RER contribute to diseases like cystic fibrosis?

By accumulating misfolded proteins

Why is understanding the structure and function of the RER important according to the text?

To uncover potential therapeutic targets for diseases

Study Notes

The Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum: A Cellular Factory for Protein Processing

The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a dynamic organelle found inside eukaryotic cells, playing a crucial role in maintaining cellular homeostasis. Among its two primary forms, the rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER) is distinguished by its ribosome-studded surface, giving it a bumpy appearance under the microscope. This article will explore the intricate structure of the RER and its essential functions in protein processing.

Structure of the Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum

The RER is composed of interconnected, membrane-bound sacs and tubules that extend throughout the cell. The ribosomes, which are responsible for synthesizing proteins, are bound to the outer surface of the RER membrane, forming a specialized compartment called the rough-surfaced ER (Fig. 1).

Structure of the rough endoplasmic reticulum Fig. 1: The rough endoplasmic reticulum, showing ribosomes bound to the outer surface of the membrane.

Protein Processing in the Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum

The RER is primarily responsible for processing newly synthesized proteins, particularly those that will be transported out of the cell or to other cellular compartments like the Golgi apparatus. This involves several key steps:

  1. Translation and translocation: The RER's ribosomes synthesize proteins using the mRNA template. As the polypeptide chain is formed, it passes through the RER membrane into the ER lumen using a protein translocation machinery called the Sec61 complex (Fig. 2).

Protein translocation in the rough endoplasmic reticulum Fig. 2: Protein translocation into the rough endoplasmic reticulum.

  1. Post-translational modifications: Once in the ER lumen, proteins are subjected to various post-translational modifications. These include the addition of carbohydrate groups (glycosylation), disulfide bond formation, and the folding of proteins into their correct three-dimensional structures.

  2. Quality control: The ER contains molecular chaperones and other folding assistance factors that help maintain proper protein folding. If a protein fails to fold correctly, it is targeted for degradation by the cell's quality control machinery, ensuring that only correctly folded proteins continue along the secretory pathway.

  3. Sorting and transport: Proteins that are correctly folded and modified are sorted in the ER and then transported to their final destinations. These destinations include other cellular compartments, such as the Golgi apparatus, or the plasma membrane, where they will interact with their target molecules.

RER and Disease

The RER plays an essential role in maintaining normal cellular function, and its dysfunction has been linked to various diseases and disorders, including cystic fibrosis and certain forms of Alzheimer's disease. For example, mutations in genes encoding ER chaperones can lead to the misfolding of proteins and the accumulation of toxic protein aggregates, which can trigger cellular dysfunction and damage.

In conclusion, the RER is a vital organelle that allows cells to synthesize, process, and sort proteins, ensuring the proper functioning of cellular and intercellular communication. Understanding the structure and function of the RER is essential for comprehending cellular biology and uncovering potential therapeutic targets for various diseases.


Explore the structure and functions of the rough endoplasmic reticulum (RER) in protein processing within eukaryotic cells. Learn about its role in synthesizing, modifying, and sorting proteins, as well as its implications in diseases like cystic fibrosis and Alzheimer's disease.

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