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J Cell Biochem. 2004 Nov 1;93(4):672-80.

Regulation and function of small heat shock protein genes during amphibian development.

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Department of Biology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1 Canada.


Small heat shock proteins (shsps) are molecular chaperones that are inducible by environmental stress such as elevated temperature or exposure to heavy metals or arsenate. Recent interest in shsps has been propelled by the finding that shsp synthesis or mutations are associated with various human diseases. While much is known about shsps in cultured cells, less is known about their expression and function during early animal development. In amphibian model systems, shsp genes are developmentally regulated under both normal and environmental stress conditions. For example, in Xenopus, the shsp gene family, hsp30, is repressed and not heat-inducible until the late neurula/early tailbud stage whereas other hsps are inducible at the onset of zygotic genome activation at the midblastula stage. Furthermore, these shsp genes are preferentially induced in selected tissues. Recent studies suggest that the developmental regulation of these shsp genes is controlled, in part, at the level of chromatin structure. Some shsps including Xenopus and Rana hsp30 are synthesized constitutively in selected tissues where they may function in the prevention of apoptosis. During environmental stress, amphibian multimeric shsps bind to denatured target protein, inhibittheir aggregation and maintain them in a folding-competent state until reactivated by other cellular chaperones. Phosphorylation of shsps appears to play a major role in the regulation of their function.

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