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J Physiol Pharmacol. 2007 Aug;58 Suppl 3:43-62.

Heat shock response in gastrointestinal tract.

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  • 1Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland.


Heat shock response is one of the defense mechanisms common to eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells. The highly conserved and ubiquitous heat shock proteins (HSPs) are essential for cell survival during stress. Stress tolerance, i.e., adaptation of cells to stress conditions, is a characteristic feature of heat shock response. The lumen of the gastrointestinal tract is an external environment to the body. Epithelium of the digestive tract is exposed to various stress factors inducing the heat shock response, e.g., bacteria and their toxins, food borne chemical compounds, drugs and diet deficiencies. Other factors like plant lecitins, glutamine or short fatty acids are mild stressors and can modulate the heat shock response in cells. All these factors are presumed to influence the normal microflora that is an integral part of the digestive tract. This review is focused on the induction/modulation of heat shock proteins expression in the epithelium of the gastrointestinal tract by various factors, on the protective role of HSPs and mechanisms leading to stress protection inside the gut. Heat shock response is one of the key mechanisms of maintenance of gastrointestinal tract homeostasis. It is involved in pathogenic bacteria adaptation to life in the digestive tract, especially in colony formation and in their role in infectious processes.

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