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Life Sci. 2010 Mar 13;86(11-12):377-84. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2009.12.015. Epub 2010 Jan 7.

Heat shock proteins in toxicology: how close and how far?

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  • 1Embryotoxicology Section, Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, Lucknow, India.


The response to stress triggers activation of the genes involved in cell survival and/or cell death. Stress response is a ubiquitous feature of cells that is induced under stress conditions. As a part of this response a set of genes called stress genes are induced to synthesize a group of proteins called heat shock proteins (Hsps). The Hsps play an essential role as molecular chaperones by assisting the correct folding of nascent and stress-accumulated misfolded proteins, and by preventing their aggregation. Because of their sensitivity to even minor assaults, Hsps are suitable as an early warning bio-indicator of cellular hazard. Despite having enormous use in toxicology, the current state of knowledge in defining a mechanism of action or accurately predicting toxicity based on stress gene expression warrants further investigation. The goal of this review is to summarize current developments in the application of stress genes and their products 'Hsps' in toxicology with a brief discussion of the caveats. While focusing on hsp70 because of its higher conservation across the taxa and since it is one of the first to be induced under stress conditions, we will also discuss other members of the stress gene family.

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