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Genes Dev. 2003 Feb 15;17(4):516-28.

Redox regulation of mammalian heat shock factor 1 is essential for Hsp gene activation and protection from stress.

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  • 1Department of Biological Chemistry, The University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-0606, USA.


The activation of eukaryotic heat shock protein (Hsp) gene expression occurs in response to a wide variety of cellular stresses including heat shock, hydrogen peroxide, uncoupled oxidative phosphorylation, infection, and inflammation. Biochemical and genetic studies have clearly demonstrated critical roles for mammalian heat shock factor 1 (HSF1) in stress-inducible Hsp gene expression, resistance to stress-induced programmed cell death, extra-embryonic development, and other biological functions. Activation of mammalian Hsp gene expression involves the stress-inducible conversion of HSF1 from the inactive monomer to the DNA-binding competent homotrimer. Although Hsp activation is a central conserved process in biology, the precise mechanisms for stress sensing and signaling to activate HSF1, and the mechanisms by which many distinct stresses activate HSF1, are poorly understood. In this report we demonstrate that recombinant mammalian HSF1 directly senses both heat and hydrogen peroxide to assemble into a homotrimer in a reversible and redox-regulated manner. The sensing of both stresses requires two cysteine residues within the HSF1 DNA-binding domain that are engaged in redox-sensitive disulfide bonds. HSF1 derivatives in which either or both cysteines were mutated are defective in stress-inducible trimerization and DNA binding, stress-inducible nuclear translocation and Hsp gene trans-activation, and in the protection of mouse cells from stress-induced apoptosis. This redox-dependent activation of HSF1 by heat and hydrogen peroxide establishes a common mechanism in the stress activation of Hsp gene expression by mammalian HSF1.

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