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J Biol Chem. 2004 Oct 22;279(43):44497-503. Epub 2004 Aug 12.

Developmentally dictated expression of heat shock factors: exclusive expression of HSF4 in the postnatal lens and its specific interaction with alphaB-crystallin heat shock promoter.

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Jules Stein Eye Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095-7000, USA.


The molecular cascade of stress response in higher eukaryotes commences in the cytoplasm with the trimerization of the heat shock factor 1 (HSF1), followed by its transport to the nucleus, where it binds to the heat shock element leading to the activation of transcription from the down-stream gene(s). This well-established paradigm has been mostly studied in cultured cells. The developmental and tissue-specific control of the heat shock transcription factors (HSFs) and their interactions with heat shock promoters remain unexplored. We report here that in the rat lens, among the three mammalian HSFs, expression of HSF1 and HSF2 is largely fetal, whereas the expression of HSF4 is predominantly postnatal. Similar pattern of expression of HSF1 and HSF4 is seen in fetal and adult human lenses. This stage-specific inverse relationship between the expression of HSF1/2 and HSF4 suggests tissue-specific management of stress depending on the presence or absence of specific HSF(s). In addition to real-time PCR and immunoblotting, gel mobility shift assays, coupled with specific antibodies and HSE probes, derived from three different heat shock promoters, establish that there is no HSF1 or HSF2 binding activity in the postnatal lens nuclear extracts. Using this unique, developmentally modulated in vivo system, we demonstrate 1) specific patterns of HSF4 binding to heat shock elements derived from alphaB-crystallin, Hsp70, and Hsp82 promoters and 2) that it is HSF4 and not HSF1 or HSF2 that interacts with the canonical heat shock element of the alphaB-crystallin gene.

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