Chronic endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is the underlying cause of many degenerative diseases, including autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa (adRP). In adRP, mutant rhodopsins accumulate and cause ER stress. This destabilizes wild-type rhodopsin and triggers photoreceptor cell degeneration. To reveal the mechanisms by which these mutant rhodopsins exert their dominant-negative effects, we established an in vivo fluorescence reporter system to monitor mutant and wild-type rhodopsin in Drosophila. By performing a genome-wide genetic screen, we found that PERK signaling plays a key role in maintaining rhodopsin homeostasis by attenuating IRE1 activities. Degradation of wild-type rhodopsin is mediated by selective autophagy of ER, which is induced by uncontrolled IRE1/XBP1 signaling and insufficient proteasome activities. Moreover, upregulation of PERK signaling prevents autophagy and suppresses retinal degeneration in the adRP model. These findings establish a pathological role for autophagy in this neurodegenerative condition and indicate that promoting PERK activity could be used to treat ER stress-related neuropathies, including adRP.

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