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Cell Stress Chaperones. 2005 Mar; 10(1): 12–16.
PMCID: PMC1074565

Use of surface-enhanced laser desorption ionization–time-of-flight to identify heat shock protein 70 isoforms in closely related species of the virilis group of Drosophila


The 70-kDa heat shock protein (Hsp) family in all Drosophila species includes 2 environmentally inducible family members, Hsp70 and Hsp68. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis revealed an unusual pattern of heat shock– inducible proteins in the species of the virilis group. Trypsin fingerprinting and microsequencing of tryptic peptides using ProteinChip Array technology identified the major isoelectric variants of Hsp70 family, including Hsp68 isoforms that differ in both molecular mass and isoelectric point from those in Drosophila melanogaster. The peculiar electrophoretic mobility is consistent with the deduced amino acid sequence of corresponding hsp genes from the species of the virilis group.


The stress response induces the rapid synthesis of heat shock proteins (Hsps) in virtually all organisms to protect cellular proteins against denaturation (Lindquist and Craig 1988; Feder and Hofman 1999). The Hsps and other molecular chaperones have been widely studied in many fields of biology and numerous publications are available on their molecular and physiological functions (Feder and Krebs 1997). Molecular studies of Hsps in eukaryotic organisms indicate a high degree of conservation during evolution, especially for the best studied 70-kDa protein family (Lindquist and Craig 1988; Hightower 1991; Sorensen et al 2003). This family plays an important role in protein chaperoning and acquired thermotolerance (Garbuz et al 2002, 2003; Feder and Hofman 1999). Two distinct inducible molecular chaperones of the Hsp70 family occur in various Drosophila species. The first, Hsp70, is prone to duplication during evolution, with 2–3 additional copies in addition to the ancestral pair of inversely oriented genes depending on the species (Bettencourt and Feder 2001, 2002). The second, Hsp68, is usually encoded by a single gene distinct from the Hsp70 locus both in D melanogaster (Lindquist and Craig 1988) or in the virilis group species (Evgen'ev et al 1978; Ranz et al 1999). Most molecular and genetic investigations of the Hsp70 family focus on the Hsp70 locus; few address the role of Hsp68 in stress resistance and heat hardening (McColl et al 1996). Our previous investigations reported variation in thermotolerance and the heat shock response in the species of the virilis group of Drosophila (Garbuz et al 2002, 2003). The virilis group comprises 12 species living in greatly differing habitats (Patterson and Stone 1952; Throckmorton 1982; Spicer 1992). After heat shock, the low-latitude and probably ancestral species D virilis exceeds the high-latitude species D lummei in basal thermotolerance, the temperature threshold for heat shock factor activation, and other parameters, whereas the desert species D novamexicana differs from the mesic (pertaining to moderate habitats) species D texana in the same manner for many other traits. Hsp70 is quantitatively the major Hsp in all virilis group species and strains examined (Garbuz et al 2003). Two-dimensional electrophoresis of 35S-labeled proteins has shown that more thermotolerant species of the group (ie, D virilis and D novamexicana) synthesized higher levels of Hsps after severe heat shock than species from the moderate and cold climatic zones (D lummei and D montana). The genetic basis of stress resistance in closely related species is likely to be complex, and these differences are manifest in all major classes of Hsps that are distinguishable in 2-dimensional electrophoresis (Garbuz et al 2003).

Detailed examination of the Hsp70 family members revealed that the differences between Hsp70s of D virilis and other species (eg, D lummei) are qualitative as well as quantitative (Garbuz et al 2003). Inducible members of Hsp70 family are represented by various isoforms, not all of them recognized by an inducible Hsp70-specific antibody. This study investigates these isoelectric variants in several species of the virilis group of Drosophila. Therefore, we used microsequencing and trypsin fingerprinting to identify the individual members of Hsp70 family.


Immunoblotting with antibody 7FB, which in D melanogaster reacts only with inducible Hsp70s, detects various proteins in D virilis and other species investigated (Fig 1A; Table 1). Interestingly, the number of detected isoforms varies with species and strain. Thus D virilis strain 9 has 3 such isoforms, which presumably correspond to Hsp70, whereas strain 1433 has only 1. Furthermore, D virilis strain 9 also exhibits 2 inducible isoforms (vs 1 in D virilis strain 1433) having slightly higher molecular mass (71 kDa), not recognizable by 7FB, but recognizable by antibody 7.10.3, which reacts with all Hsp70 family members in most Drosophila species examined, D lummei and other species of the group examined in this study exhibit only 1 such higher molecular weight isoform, which characteristically has a more acidic isoelectric point than presumptive Hsp70 (Fig 1B). The inducible nature of this isoform was also revealed by silver staining (Fig 2A,B) and 35S-labeling experiments (data not shown). We hypothesized that this particular group of proteins corresponds to D melanogaster Hsp68. To test this hypothesis, we excised the 70-kDa protein spot (recognized by 7FB) and 71-kDa protein spot (inducible but not recognized by 7FB) and performed fingerprinting and microsequencing analysis. These experiments used D virilis strain 1433, in which both inducible proteins of interest (70 kDa and 71 kDa) are represented by single isoforms, which are well separated on the gel and easy to isolate (Fig 2A,B).

Fig 1.
 Major isoelectric variants of the heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) family in various species of Drosophila. (A) Immunoblots of Hsp70 family members in strains and species. Primary antibody 7FB recognizes only the 70-kDa–inducible Hsp70 family ...
Fig 2.
 Two-dimensional (2D) electrophoretic separation of total proteins isolated from adult flies (A) Control 25°C; (B) heat shock 38.5°C 30 minute plus 3 hours of recovery at 25°C. Silver stain. Inducible heat shock protein ...
Table 1
 Drosophila strains examined in the present study

Positive identification of these proteins used surface-enhanced laser desorption ionization–time-of-flight (SELDI-TOF) technology provided by Ciphergen Biosystems Inc, Fremont, CA. This technology combines chromatography on the chemically active Protein Chip™ array surface with laser desorption ionization TOF mass spectrometry (MS). After in-gel trypsin digestion and mass fingerprinting analysis using linear SELDI-MS, the National Center for Biotechnology Information database was searched with the Profound search engine.

This search established that, unsurprisingly, the 70-kDa spot is the Hsp70 Drosophila protein. Of 32 peptides compared with the database, 14 were a correct match, covering 31% of the Hsp70 of Drosophila. The 71-kDa protein in D virilis samples best matched Drosophila Hsp68, with a probability score of 1.00e + 00 and 8 of 22 introduced peptides matching 15% of Drosophila's Hsp68 protein sequence.

Both identifications were confirmed by microsequencing of tryptic peptides using the same type of ProteinChip™ array and a PCI-1000 interface (Ciphergen Biosystems Inc.) to a Q-star (ABI, Sciex) tandem MS instrument. In Figure 3A, the results of such analysis of the parental ion of 1473.6203 is shown together with the peptide sequence obtained. Search of the NCBI database with the Mascot search engine gave a Mowse score of 80 for this peptide and unequivocally identified it as Hsp70 of Drosophila. Six more peptides were microsequenced, and all matched Hsp70 of Drosophila.

Fig 3.
 Microsequencing of the proteins which were identified as heat shock protein (Hsp)70 (A) and Hsp68 (B) using trypsin fingerprinting and database search. The determined sequences are presented in bold. Protein identification was done by trypsin ...

Figure 3B shows the results of microsequencing of 1695.8058 parental ion of the protein identified as Hsp68 by trypsin fingerprinting, single MS analysis, and SwissProt database search by Profound. The search of the NCBI database by Mascot identified this peptide as a product of the hsp68 gene of Drosophila with a Mowse score of 71. Five more peptides were microsequenced, and all belonged to Hsp68 of Drosophila. Thus, both trypsin fingerprinting and tandem MS-MS analysis unequivocally identified 2 proteins under investigation as Drosophila Hsp70 and Hsp68.

To explain the observed mobility of the 2 Hsps, we have deduced an amino acid sequence of D virilis Hsp70 and Hsp68 using the corresponding clones recently sequenced in our laboratory (Velikodvorskaya et al, personal communication). The analysis showed that the peculiar electrophoretic behavior of these proteins is easily explained by the amino acid number and content and does not represent the result of posttranslational modification. A small insertion in the sequence of the hsp68 gene of D lummei, accession #AY395705 (and presumably in all other species of the virilis group) apparently accounts for this peculiar electrophoretic behavior (Figure 1).

The induction pattern of Hsp70 family proteins in various species (Fig 1A; Table 1) demonstrates that species from moderate and cold climates (D lummei and D montana) usually produce significantly lower levels of Hsp68 after heat shock than species from high temperature zones (D virilis, D texana, and D novamexicana).

The identification of the proteins is a major challenge in proteomics. Several procedures and novel technologies have been developed, and in this study, we report novel experimental methods to identify peptides with the ProteinChip Array technique. The approach exemplified here (trypsin fingerprinting and microsequencing) is of particular use in resolving diverse constitutive and inducible forms belonging to 1 protein family (eg, Hsp70 family) when other techniques cannot identify the isoforms appearing under different conditions (Ulmasov et al 1992; Norris et al 1995). The approach is also of great value for understanding evolutionary variation among proteins, particularly when they have similar functions.


We are grateful to Dr Martin Feder of the University of Chicago for many helpful suggestions and editing of the whole manuscript.

This work was supported by grants of Russian Academy of Sciences for Basic Science 02-04-49121 and 03-04-48918 and grant provided by program of Physico-Chemical Biology of Russian Academy of Sciences to M.B.E.


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