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Methods. 2007 Nov;43(3):168-75.

Mechanisms for Hsp70 secretion: crossing membranes without a leader.

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Division of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Department of Radiation Oncology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, 21-27 Burlington Avenue, Room 553, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) is released from cells of many types and plays a significant signaling role, particularly in the inflammatory and immune responses. However, Hsp70 does not contain a consensus secretory signal and thus cannot traverse the plasma membrane by conventional mechanisms. However, Hsp70 can be released from cells by active mechanism that are independent of de novo Hsp70 synthesis or cell death. This pathway is similar to one utilized by the leaderless protein interleukin 1beta. Hsp70 release involves transit through an endolysosomal compartment and is inhibited by lysosomotropic compounds. In addition, the rate of Hsp70 secretion correlates well with the appearance of the lysosomal marker LAMP1 on the cell surface, further suggesting the role for endolysosomes. The entry of Hsp70 into this secretory compartment appears to involve the ABC-family transporter proteins. While the cell signals involved in triggering Hsp70 release through this lysosomal pathway are largely unknown, recent data suggest a regulatory role for extracellular ATP. These mechanisms are also shared by interleukin 1beta secretion. Following release it has been shown that Hsp70 binds to adjacent cells, suggesting that the secreted protein participates in paracrine or autocrine interactions with adjacent cell surfaces. Thus an outline is beginning to of the mechanisms of Hsp70 secretion. Much further study will be required to fully elucidate mechanisms involved in targeting Hsp70 towards the non-canonical secretion pathways and its regulation.

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