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PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e23512. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023512. Epub 2011 Aug 10.

An atypical unfolded protein response in heat shocked cells.

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  • 1Department of Biomolecular Chemistry, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.



The heat shock response (HSR) and the unfolded protein response (UPR) are both activated by proteotoxic stress, although in different compartments, and share cellular resources. How these resources are allocated when both responses are active is not known. Insight in possible crosstalk will help understanding the consequences of failure of these systems in (age-related) disease.


In heat stressed HEK293 cells synthesis of the canonical UPR transcription factors XBP1s and ATF4 was detected as well as HSF1 independent activation of the promoters of the ER resident chaperones HSPA5 (BiP) and DNAJB9 (ERdj4). However, the heat stress activation of the DNAJB9 promoter, a XBP1s target, was not blocked in cells expressing a dominant negative IRE1α mutant, and thus did not require XBP1s. Furthermore, the DNA element required for heat stress activation of the DNAJB9 promoter is distinct from the ATF4 and ATF6 target elements; even though inhibition of eIF2α phosphorylation resulted in a decreased activation of the DNAJB9 promoter upon heat stress, suggesting a role for an eIF2α phosphorylation dependent product.


The initial step in the UPR, synthesis of transcription factors, is activated by heat stress but the second step, transcriptional transactivation by these factors, is blocked and these pathways of the UPR are thus not productive. Expression of canonical ER chaperones is part of the response of heat stressed cells but another set of transcription factors has been recruited to regulate expression of these ER chaperones.

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