• Volume 32, Issue 3

April 2007,   pages  429-628

• Foreword

• Key issues in achieving an integrative perspective on stress

An integrative perspective on molecular mechanisms of stress resistance requires understanding of these mechanisms not just in vitro or in the model organism in the research laboratory – but in the healthy or diseased human in society, in the cultivated plant or animal in agricultural production, and in populations and species in natural communities and ecosystems. Such understanding involves careful attention to the context in which the organism normally undergoes stress, and appreciation that biological phenomena occur at diverse levels of organization (from molecule to ecosystem). Surprisingly, three issues fundamental to achieving an integrative perspective are presently unresolved:

1. Is variation in lower-level traits (nucleotide sequences, genes, gene products) seldom, commonly, or always consequential for stress resistance?

2. Does environmental stress reduce or enhance genetic variation, which is the raw material of evolution?

3. Is the present distribution of organisms along natural gradients of stress largely the result of organisms living where they can, or is adaptive evolution generally sufficient to overcome stress?

Effective collaboration among disciplinary specialists and meta-analysis may be helpful in resolving these issues.

• Molecular chaperones: The modular evolution of cellular networks

Molecular chaperones play a prominent role in signaling and transcriptional regulatory networks of the cell. Recent advances uncovered that chaperones act as genetic buffers stabilizing the phenotype of various cells and organisms and may serve as potential regulators of evolvability. Chaperones have weak links, connect hubs, are in the overlaps of network modules and may uncouple these modules during stress, which gives an additional protection for the cell at the network-level. Moreover, after stress chaperones are essential to re-build inter-modular contacts by their low affinity sampling of the potential interaction partners in different modules. This opens the way to the chaperone-regulated modular evolution of cellular networks, and helps us to design novel therapeutic and anti-aging strategies.

• Studying stress responses in the post-genomic era: its ecological and evolutionary role

Most investigations on the effects of and responses to stress exposures have been performed on a limited number of model organisms in the laboratory. Here much progress has been made in terms of identifying and describing beneficial and detrimental effects of stress, responses to stress and the mechanisms behind stress tolerance. However, to gain further understanding of which genes are involved in stress resistance and how the responses are regulated from an ecological and evolutionary perspective there is a need to combine studies on multiple levels of biological organization from DNA to phenotypes. Furthermore, we emphasize the importance of studying ecologically relevant traits and natural or semi-natural conditions to verify whether the results obtained are representative of the ecological and evolutionary processes in the field. Here, we will review what we currently know about thermal adaptation and the role of different stress responses to thermal challenges in insects, particularly Drosophila. Furthermore, we address some key questions that require future attention.

• Molecular mechanisms of canalization: Hsp90 and beyond

The Hsp90 chaperone machine facilitates the maturation of a diverse set of ‘client’ proteins. Many of these Hsp90 clients are essential nodes in signal transduction pathways and regulatory circuits, accounting for the important role Hsp90 plays in organismal development and responses to the environment. Recent findings suggest a broader impact of the chaperone on phenotype: fully functional Hsp90 canalizes wild-type phenotypes by suppressing underlying genetic and epigenetic variation. This variation can be expressed upon challenging the Hsp90 machinery by environmental stress, genetic or pharmaceutical targeting of Hsp90. The existence of Hsp90-buffered genetic and epigenetic variation together with plausible release mechanisms has wide-ranging implication for phenotype and possibly evolutionary processes. Here, we discuss the role of Hsp90 in canalization and organismal plasticity, and highlight important questions for future experimental inquiry.

• Developmental plasticity and acclimation both contribute to adaptive responses to alternating seasons of plenty and of stress in Bicyclus butterflies

Plasticity is a crucial component of the life cycle of invertebrates that live as active adults throughout wet and dry seasons in the tropics. Such plasticity is seen in the numerous species of Bicyclus butterflies in Africa which exhibit seasonal polyphenism with sequential generations of adults with one or other of two alternative phenotypes. These differ not only in wing pattern but in many other traits. This divergence across a broad complex of traits is associated with survival and reproduction either in a wet season that is favourable in terms of resources, or mainly in a dry season that is more stressful. This phenomenon has led us to examine the bases of the developmental plasticity in a model species, B. anynana, and also the evolution of key adult life history traits, including starvation resistance and longevity. We now understand something about the processes that generate variation in the phenotype, and also about the ecological context of responses to environmental stress. The responses clearly involve a mix of developmental plasticity as cued by different environments in pre-adult development, and the acclimation of life history traits in adults to their prevailing environment.

• The role of stress proteins in responses of a montane willow leaf beetle to environmental temperature variation

The heat shock response is a critical mechanism by which organisms buffer effects of variable and unpredictable environmental temperatures. Upregulation of heat shock proteins (Hsps) increases survival after exposure to stressful conditions in nature, although benefits of Hsp expression are often balanced by costs to growth and reproductive success. Hsp-assisted folding of variant polypeptides may prevent development of unfit phenotypes; thus, some differences in Hsp expression among natural populations of ectotherms may be due to interactions between enzyme variants (allozymes) and Hsps. In the Sierra willow leaf beetle Chrysomela aeneicollis, which lives in highly variable thermal habitats at the southern edge of their range in the Eastern Sierra Nevada, California, allele frequencies at the enzyme locus phosphoglucose isomerase (PGI) vary across a climatic latitudinal gradient. PGI allozymes differ in kinetic properties, and expression of a 70 kDa Hsp differs between populations, along elevation gradients, and among PGI genotypes. Differences in Hsp70 expression among PGI genotypes correspond to differences in thermal tolerance and traits important for reproductive success, such as running speed, survival and fecundity. Thus, differential Hsp expression among genotypes may allow functionally important genetic variation to persist, allowing populations to respond effectively to environmental change.

• Molecular mechanisms underlying thermal adaptation of xeric animals

For many years, we and our collaborators have investigated the adaptive role of heat shock proteins in different animals, including the representatives of homothermic and poikilothermic species that inhabit regions with contrasting thermal conditions. Adaptive evolution of the response to hyperthermia has led to different results depending upon the species. The thermal threshold of induction of heat shock proteins in desert thermophylic species is, as a rule, higher than in the species from less extreme climates. In addition, thermoresistant poikilothermic species often exhibit a certain level of heat shock proteins in cells even at a physiologically normal temperature. Furthermore, there is often a positive correlation between the characteristic temperature of the ecological niche of a given species and the amount of Hsp70-like proteins in the cells at normal temperature. Although in most cases adaptation to hyperthermia occurs without changes in the number of heat shock genes, these genes can be amplified in some xeric species. It was shown that mobile genetic elements may play an important role in the evolution and fine-tuning of the heat shock response system, and can be used for direct introduction of mutations in the promoter regions of these genes.

• specific and unspecific responses of plants to cold and drought stress

Different environmental stresses to a plant may result in similar responses at the cellular and molecular level. This is due to the fact that the impacts of the stressors trigger similar strains and downstream signal transduction chains. A good example for an unspecific response is the reaction to stressors which induce water deficiency e.g. drought, salinity and cold, especially frost. The stabilizing effect of liquid water on the membrane bilayer can be supported by compatible solutes and special proteins. At the metabolic level, osmotic adjustment by synthesis of low-molecular osmolytes (carbohydrates, betains, proline) can counteract cellular dehydration and turgor loss. Taking the example of Pinus sylvestris, changes at the level of membrane composition, and concomitantly of photosynthetic capacity during frost hardening is shown. Additionally the effect of photoperiod as measured via the phytochrome system and the effect of subfreezing temperatures on the incidence of frost hardening is discussed. Extremely hydrophilic proteins such as dehydrins are common products protecting not only the biomembranes in ripening seeds (late embryogenesis abundant proteins) but accumulate also in the shoots and roots during cold adaptation, especially in drought tolerant plants. Dehydrins are characterized by conserved amino acid motifs, called the K-, Y- or S-segments. Accumulation of dehydrins can be induced not only by drought, but also by cold, salinity, treatment with abscisic acid and methyl jasmonate. Positive effects of the overexpression of a wild chickpea (Cicer pinnatifidum) dehydrin in tobacco plants on the dehydration tolerance is shown. The presentation discusses the perception of cold and drought, the subsequent signal transduction and expression of genes and their products. Differences and similarities between the plant responses to both stressors are also discussed.

• Protein stress and stress proteins: implications in aging and disease

Environmantal stress induces damage that activates an adaptive response in any organism. The cellular stress response is based on the induction of cytoprotective proteins, the so called stress or heat shock proteins. The stress response as well as stress proteins are ubiquitous, highly conserved mechanism, and genes, respectively, already present in prokaryotes. Chaperones protect the proteome against conformational damage, promoting the function of protein networks. Protein damage takes place during aging and in several degenerative diseases, and presents a threat to overload the cellular defense mechanisms. The preservation of a robust stress response and protein disposal is indispensable for health and longevity. This review summarizes the present knowledge of protein damage, turnover, and the stress response in aging and degenerative diseases.

• Heat shock protein 90: the cancer chaperone

Heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) is a molecular chaperone required for the stability and function of a number of conditionally activated and/or expressed signalling proteins, as well as multiple mutated, chimeric, and/or over-expressed signalling proteins, that promote cancer cell growth and/or survival. Hsp90 inhibitors are unique in that, although they are directed towards a specific molecular target, they simultaneously inhibit multiple cellular signalling pathways. By inhibiting nodal points in multiple overlapping survival pathways utilized by cancer cells, combination of an Hsp90 inhibitor with standard chemotherapeutic agents may dramatically increase the in vivo efficacy of the standard agent. Hsp90 inhibitors may circumvent the characteristic genetic plasticity that has allowed cancer cells to eventually evade the toxic effects of most molecularly targeted agents. The mechanism-based use of Hsp90 inhibitors, both alone and in combination with other drugs, should be effective toward multiple forms of cancer. Further, because Hsp90 inhibitors also induce Hsf-1-dependent expression of Hsp70, and because certain mutated Hsp90 client proteins are neurotoxic, these drugs display ameliorative properties in several neurodegenerative disease models, suggesting a novel role for Hsp90 inhibitors in treating multiple pathologies involving neurodegeneration.

• Three-dimensional structure of heat shock protein 90 from Plasmodium falciparum: molecular modelling approach to rational drug design against malaria

We have recently implicated heat shock protein 90 from Plasmodium falciparum (PfHsp90) as a potential drug target against malaria. Using inhibitors specific to the nucleotide binding domain of Hsp90, we have shown potent growth inhibitory effects on development of malarial parasite in human erythrocytes. To gain better understanding of the vital role played by PfHsp90 in parasite growth, we have modeled its three dimensional structure using recently described full length structure of yeast Hsp90. Sequence similarity found between PfHsp90 and yeast Hsp90 allowed us to model the core structure with high confidence. The superimposition of the predicted structure with that of the template yeast Hsp90 structure reveals an RMSD of 3.31 Å. The N-terminal and middle domains showed the least RMSD (1.76 Å) while the more divergent C–terminus showed a greater RMSD (2.84 Å) with respect to the template. The structure shows overall conservation of domains involved in nucleotide binding, ATPase activity, co-chaperone binding as well as inter-subunit interactions. Important co-chaperones known to modulate Hsp90 function in other eukaryotes are conserved in malarial parasite as well. An acidic stretch of amino acids found in the linker region, which is uniquely extended in PfHsp90 could not be modeled in this structure suggesting a flexible conformation. Our results provide a basis to compare the overall structure and functional pathways dependent on PfHsp90 in malarial parasite. Further analysis of differences found between human and parasite Hsp90 may make it possible to design inhibitors targeted specifically against malaria.

• Polyglutamine expansion in Drosophila: thermal stress and Hsp70 as selective agents

Repetitive DNA sequences that encode polyglutamine tracts are prone to expansion and cause highly deleterious phenotypes of neurodegeneration. Despite this tendency, polyglutamine tracts (polyQs”) are conserved features of eukaryotic genomes. PolyQs are the most frequent protein-coding homotypic repeat in insect genomes, and are found predominantly in genes encoding transcription factors conserved from Drosophila through human. Although highly conserved across species, polyQ lengths vary widely within species. In D. melanogaster, polyQs in 25 genes have more alleles and higher heterozygosity than all other poly-amino acid tracts. The heat shock protein Hsp70 is a principal suppressor of polyQ expansions and may play a key role in modulating the phenotypes of the alleles that encode them. Hsp70 also promotes tolerance of natural thermal stress in Drosophila and diverse organisms, a role which may deplete the chaperone from buffering against polyQ toxicity. Thus in stressful environments, natural selection against long polyQ alleles more prone to expansion and deleterious phenotypes may be more effective. This hypothesis can be tested by measuring the phenotypic interactions between Hsp70 and polyQ transgenes in D. melanogaster undergoing natural thermal stress, an approach which integrates comparative genomics with experimental and ecological genetics.

• Thermosensors in eubacteria: role and evolution

Temperature is an important physical stress factor sensed by bacteria and used to regulate gene expression. Three different macromolecules have been identified being able to sense temperature: DNA, mRNA and proteins. Depending on the induction mechanism, two different pathways have to be distinguished, namely the heat shock response and the high temperature response. While the heat shock response is induced by temperature increments and is transient, the high temperature response needs a specific temperature to become induced and proceeds as long as cells are exposed to that temperature. The heat shock response is induced by denatured proteins and aimed to prevent formation of protein aggregates by refolding or degradation, and the high temperature response is mainly used by pathogenic bacteria to detect entry into a mammalian host followed by induction of their virulence genes. All known high temperature sensors are present in two alternative conformations depending on the temperature. Heat shock sensors are either molecular chaperones or proteases which keep either a positive transcriptional regulator inactive or a negative regulator active or do not attack the regulator, respectively, under physiological conditions. Denatured proteins either titrate the molecular chaperones or activate the protease. The evolution of the different temperature sensors is discussed.

• The Kdp-ATPase system and its regulation

K+, the dominant intracellular cation, is required for various physiological processes like turgor homeostasis, pH regulation etc. Bacterial cells have evolved many diverse K+ transporters to maintain the desired concentration of internal K+. In E. coli, the KdpATPase (comprising of the KdpFABC complex), encoded by the kdpFABC operon, is an inducible high-affinity K+ transporter that is synthesised under conditions of severe K+ limitation or osmotic upshift. The E. coli kdp expression is transcriptionally regulated by the KdpD and KdpE proteins, which together constitute a typical bacterial two-component signal transduction system. The Kdp system is widely dispersed among the different classes of bacteria including the cyanobacteria. The ordering of the kdpA, kdpB and kdpC is relatively fixed but the kdpD/E genes show different arrangements in distantly related bacteria. Our studies have shown that the cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. strain L-31 possesses two kdp operons, kdp1 and kdp2, of which, the later is expressed under K+ deficiency and desiccation. Among the regulatory genes, the kdpD ORF of Anabaena L-31 is truncated when compared to the kdpD of other bacteria, while a kdpE-like gene is absent. The extremely radio-resistant bacterium, Deinococcus radiodurans strain R1, also shows the presence of a naturally short kdpD ORF similar to Anabaena in its kdp operon. The review elaborates the expression of bacterial kdp operons in response to various environmental stress conditions, with special emphasis on Anabaena. The possible mechanism(s) of regulation of the unique kdp operons from Anabaena and Deinococcus are also discussed.

• Basal transcription machinery: role in regulation of stress response in eukaryotes

The holoenzyme of prokaryotic RNA polymerase consists of the core enzyme, made of two 𝛼, 𝛽, 𝛽’ and 𝜔 subunits, which lacks promoter selectivity and a sigma (𝜎) subunit which enables the core enzyme to initiate transcription in a promoter dependent fashion. A stress sigma factor 𝜎s, in prokaryotes seems to regulate several stress response genes in conjunction with other stress specific regulators. Since the basic principles of transcription are conserved from simple bacteria to multicellular complex organisms, an obvious question is: what is the identity of a counterpart of 𝜎s, that is closest to the core polymerase and that dictates transcription of stress regulated genes in general? In this review, we discuss the logic behind the suggestion that like in prokaryotes, eukaryotes also have a common functional unit in the transcription machinery through which the stress specific transcription factors regulate rapid and highly controlled induction of gene expression associated with generalized stress response and point to some candidates that would fit the bill of the eukaryotic 𝜎s.

• Mechanisms of HSP72 release

Currently two mechanisms are recognized by which heat shock proteins (HSP) are released from cells; a passive release mechanism, including necrotic cell death, severe blunt trauma, surgery and following infection with lytic viruses, and an active release mechanism which involves the non classical protein release pathway. HSPs are released both as free HSP and within exosomes. This review covers recent findings on the mechanism by which stress induces the release of HSP72 into the circulation and the biological significance of circulating HSP72 to host defense against disease.

• Heat shock transcription factors regulate heat induced cell death in a rat histiocytoma

Heat shock response is associated with the synthesis of heat shock proteins (Hsps) which is strictly regulated by different members of heat shock transcription factors (HSFs). We previously reported that a rat histiocytoma, BC-8 failed to synthesize Hsps when subjected to typical heat shock conditions (42°C, 60 min). The lack of Hsp synthesis in these cells was due to a failure in HSF1 DNA binding activity. In the present study we report that BC-8 tumor cells when subjected to heat shock at higher temperature (43°C, 60 min) or incubation for longer time at 42°C, exhibited necrosis characteristics; however, under mild heat shock (42°C, 30 min) conditions cells showed activation of autophagy. Mild heat shock treatment induced proteolysis of HSF1, and under similar conditions we observed an increase in HSF2 expression followed by its enhanced DNA binding activity. Inhibiting HSF1 proteolysis by reversible proteasome inhibition failed to inhibit heat shock induced autophagy. Compromising HSF2 expression but not HSF1 resulted in the inhibition of autophagy, suggesting HSF2 dependent activation of autophagy. We are reporting for the first time that HSF2 is heat inducible and functions in heat shock induced autophagic cell death in BC-8 tumor cells.

• Heat shock genes – integrating cell survival and death

Heat shock induced gene expression and other cellular responses help limit the damage caused by stress and thus facilitate cellular recovery. Cellular damage also triggers apoptotic cell death through several pathways. This paper briefly reviews interactions of the major heat shock proteins with components of the apoptotic pathways. Hsp90, which acts as a chaperone for unstable signal transducers to keep them poised for activation, interacts with RIP and Akt and promotes NF-𝜅B mediated inhibition of apoptosis; in addition it also blocks some steps in the apoptotic pathways. Hsp70 is mostly anti-apoptotic and acts at several levels like inhibition of translocation of Bax into mitochondria, release of cytochrome c from mitochondria, formation of apoptosome and inhibition of activation of initiator caspases. Hsp70 also modulates JNK, NF-𝜅B and Akt signaling pathways in the apoptotic cascade. In contrast, Hsp60 has both anti- and pro-apoptotic roles. Cytosolic Hsp60 prevents translocation of the pro-apoptotic protein Bax into mitochondria and thus promotes cell survival but it also promotes maturation of procaspase-3, essential for caspase mediated cell death. Our recent in vivo studies show that RNAi for the Hsp60D in Drosophila melanogaster prevents induced apoptosis. Hsp27 exerts its anti-apoptotic influence by inhibiting cytochrome c and TNF-mediated cell death. 𝛼𝛽 crystallin suppresses caspase-8 and cytochrome c mediated activation of caspase-3. Studies in our laboratory also reveal that absence or reduced levels of the developmentally active as well as stress induced non-coding hsr𝜔 transcripts, which are known to sequester diverse hnRNPs and related nuclear RNA-binding proteins, block induced apoptosis in Drosophila. Modulation of the apoptotic pathways by Hsps reflects their roles as weak links” between various hubs” in cellular networks. On the other hand, non-coding RNAs, by virtue of their potential to bind with multiple proteins, can act as hubs” in these networks. In view of the integrative nature of living systems, it is not surprising that stress-induced genes, generally believed to primarily function in cell survival pathways, inhibit or even promote cell death pathways at multiple levels to ensure homeostasis at cell and/or organism level. The heat shock genes obviously do much more than merely help cells survive stress.

• Complexity of rice Hsp100 gene family: lessons from rice genome sequence data

Elucidation of genome sequence provides an excellent platform to understand detailed complexity of the various gene families. Hsp100 is an important family of chaperones in diverse living systems. There are eight putative gene loci encoding for Hsp100 proteins in Arabidopsis genome. In rice, two full-length Hsp100 cDNAs have been isolated and sequenced so far. Analysis of rice genomic sequence by in silico approach showed that two isolated rice Hsp100 cDNAs correspond to Os05g44340 and Os02g32520 genes in the rice genome database. There appears to be three additional proteins (encoded by Os03g31300, Os04g32560 and Os04g33210 gene loci) that are variably homologous to Os05g44340 and Os02g32520 throughout the entire amino acid sequence. The above five rice Hsp100 genes show significant similarities in the signature sequences known to be conserved among Hsp100 proteins. While Os05g44340 encodes cytoplasmic Hsp100 protein, those encoded by the other four genes are predicted to have chloroplast transit peptides.

• Functional validation of a novel isoform of Na+/H+ antiporter from Pennisetum glaucum for enhancing salinity tolerance in rice

Salt stress is an environmental factor that severely impairs plant growth and productivity. We have cloned a novel isoform of a vacuolar Na+/H+ antiporter from Pennisetum glaucum (PgNHX1) that contains 5 transmembrane domains in contrast to AtNHX1 and OsNHX1 which have 9 transmembrane domains. Recently we have shown that PgNHX1 could confer high level of salinity tolerance when overexpressed in Brassica juncea. Here, we report the functional validation of this antiporter in crop plant rice. Overexpression of PgNHX1 conferred high level of salinity tolerance in rice. Transgenic rice plants overexpressing PgNHX1 developed more extensive root system and completed their life cycle by setting flowers and seeds in the presence of 150 mM NaCl. Our data demonstrate the potential of PgNHX1 for imparting enhanced salt tolerance capabilities to salt-sensitive crop plants for growing in high saline areas.

• # Journal of Biosciences

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