β Cell apoptosis and dedifferentiation are 2 hotly debated mechanisms underlying β cell loss in type 2 diabetes; however, the molecular drivers underlying such events remain largely unclear. Here, we performed a side-by-side comparison of mice carrying β cell-specific deletion of ER-associated degradation (ERAD) and autophagy. We reported that, while autophagy was necessary for β cell survival, the highly conserved Sel1L-Hrd1 ERAD protein complex was required for the maintenance of β cell maturation and identity. Using single-cell RNA-Seq, we demonstrated that Sel1L deficiency was not associated with β cell loss, but rather loss of β cell identity. Sel1L-Hrd1 ERAD controlled β cell identity via TGF-β signaling, in part by mediating the degradation of TGF-β receptor 1. Inhibition of TGF-β signaling in Sel1L-deficient β cells augmented the expression of β cell maturation markers and increased the total insulin content. Our data revealed distinct pathogenic effects of 2 major proteolytic pathways in β cells, providing a framework for therapies targeting distinct mechanisms of protein quality control.
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