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Physiol Rev. 2001 Oct;81(4):1461-97.

Heat shock proteins and cardiovascular pathophysiology.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.


In the eukaryotic cell an intrinsic mechanism is present providing the ability to defend itself against external stressors from various sources. This defense mechanism probably evolved from the presence of a group of chaperones, playing a crucial role in governing proper protein assembly, folding, and transport. Upregulation of the synthesis of a number of these proteins upon environmental stress establishes a unique defense system to maintain cellular protein homeostasis and to ensure survival of the cell. In the cardiovascular system this enhanced protein synthesis leads to a transient but powerful increase in tolerance to such endangering situations as ischemia, hypoxia, oxidative injury, and endotoxemia. These so-called heat shock proteins interfere with several physiological processes within several cell organelles and, for proper functioning, are translocated to different compartments following stress-induced synthesis. In this review we describe the physiological role of heat shock proteins and discuss their protective potential against various stress agents in the cardiovascular system.

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