Dense core vesicles (DCVs) and synaptic vesicles are specialised secretory vesicles in neurons and neuroendocrine cells, and abnormal release of their cargo is associated with various pathophysiologies. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and inter-organellar communication are also associated with disease biology. To investigate the functional status of regulated exocytosis arising from the crosstalk of a stressed ER and DCVs, ER stress was modelled in PC12 neuroendocrine cells using thapsigargin. DCV exocytosis was severely compromised in ER-stressed PC12 cells and was reversed to varying magnitudes by ER stress attenuators. Experiments with tunicamycin, an independent ER stressor, yielded similar results. Concurrently, ER stress also caused impaired DCV exocytosis in insulin-secreting INS-1 cells. Molecular analysis revealed blunted SNAP25 expression, potentially attributed to augmented levels of ATF4, an inhibitor of CREB that binds to the CREB-binding site. The effects of loss of function of ATF4 in ER-stressed cells substantiated this attribution. Our studies revealed severe defects in DCV exocytosis in ER-stressed cells for the first time, mediated by reduced levels of key exocytotic and granulogenic switches regulated via the eIF2α (EIF2A)–ATF4 axis.

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