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Exp Cell Res. 1995 Aug;219(2):536-46.

Thermal protein denaturation and protein aggregation in cells made thermotolerant by various chemicals: role of heat shock proteins.

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Department of Radiobiology, University of Groningen, The Netherlands.


Thermotolerance (TT) induced by sodium arsenite (A-TT: 100 microM, 1 h, 37 degrees C) was compared to heat-induced thermotolerance (H-TT: 15 min, 44 degrees C) using HeLa S3 cells. All four pretreatments led to comparable levels of thermotolerance and also induced resistance to arsenite-, ethanol-, and diamide-induced toxicity (clonogenic ability). Stress-induced expression of the major heat shock proteins (hsp27, hsc70(p73), hsp70(p72), and hsp90) was generally highest in H-TT cells and lowest in A-TT cells. Interestingly, the four types of TT cells showed distinct differences in certain aspects of resistance against thermal protein damage. Thermal protein denaturation and aggregation determined in isolated cellular membrane fractions was found to be attenuated when they were isolated from H-TT and A-TT cells but not when isolated from E-TT and D-TT cells. The heat resistance in the proteins of the membrane fraction corresponded with elevated levels of hsp70(p72) associated with the isolated membrane fractions. In the nuclear fraction, only marginal (not significant) attenuation of the formation of protein aggregates (as determined by TX-100 (in)solubility) was observed. However, the postheat recovery from heat-induced protein aggregation in the nucleus was faster in H-TT, E-TT, and D-TT cells, but not in A-TT cells. Despite the fact that elevated levels of hsp27, hsp70(p73), and hsp70(p72) were found in the TX-100 insoluble nuclear fraction derived from all TT cells, no correlation was found with the degree of resistance in terms of the accelerated recovery from nuclear protein aggregation. The only correlation between accelerated recovery from nuclear protein aggregates was that with total cellular levels of hsp27. The data indicate that heat-induced loss of clonogenic ability may be a multitarget rather than a single target event. A threshold of damage may exist in cells after exposure to heat; multiple sets of proteins in (different compartments of) the cell need to be damaged before this threshold is exceeded and the cell dies. As a consequence, stabilization of only one of these sets of proteins is already sufficient to render cells thermotolerant at the clonogenic level.

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