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J Biol Chem. 1997 Apr 4;272(14):9086-92.

Proteasome inhibition leads to a heat-shock response, induction of endoplasmic reticulum chaperones, and thermotolerance.

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  • 1Renal Division, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


The accumulation of misfolded proteins in the cytosol leads to increased expression of heat-shock proteins, while accumulation of such proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stimulates the expression of many ER resident proteins, most of which function as molecular chaperones. Recently, inhibitors of the proteasome have been identified that can block the rapid degradation of abnormal cytosolic and ER-associated proteins. We therefore tested whether these agents, by causing the accumulation of abnormal proteins, might stimulate the expression of cytosolic heat-shock proteins and/or ER molecular chaperones and thereby induce thermotolerance. Exposure of Madin-Darby canine kidney cells to various proteasome inhibitors, including the peptide aldehydes (MG132, MG115, N-acetyl-leucyl-leucyl-norleucinal) and lactacystin, inhibited the degradation of short-lived proteins and increased markedly the levels of mRNAs encoding cytosolic heat-shock proteins (Hsp70, polyubiquitin) and ER chaperones (BiP, Grp94, ERp72), as shown by Northern blot analysis. However, inhibitors of cysteine proteases (E64), serine proteases (leupeptin), or metalloproteases (1, 10-phenanthroline) had no effect on the levels of these mRNAs. The relative efficacies of the peptide aldehyde inhibitors in inducing these mRNAs correlated with their potencies against the proteasome. Furthermore, reduction of the aldehyde group of MG132 decreased its inhibitory effect on proteolysis and largely prevented the induction of these mRNAs. Although treatment with the proteasome inhibitors caused rapid increases in mRNA levels (as early as 2 h after treatment with MG132), the inhibitors did not detectably affect total protein synthesis, total protein secretion, ER morphology, or the retention of ER-lumenal proteins, even after 18 h of treatment. Together, the findings suggest that inhibition of proteasome function induces heat-shock proteins and ER chaperones due to the accumulation of sufficient amounts of abnormal proteins and/or the inhibition of degradation of a key regulatory factor (e.g. heat-shock factor). Since expression of heat-shock proteins can protect cells from thermal injury, we tested whether the proteasome inhibitors might also confer thermotolerance. Treatment of cells with MG132 for as little as 2 h, markedly increased the survival of cells subjected to high temperatures (up to 46 degrees C). Thus, these agents may have applications in protecting against cell injury.

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