After a natural disaster like a big fire, countless helpers work together to get rid of debris, to build temporary shelters and to provide food for people in need. When a cell is exposed to dangerous environmental conditions such as high temperature, a quite similar process is initiated: the cellular stress response, also called heat shock response. Scientists of the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Munich-Martinsried could uncover an entire network of cellular helpers and thus identify new regulatory mechanisms of this stress response. “Our results could also be of use for investigating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s,” hopes PhD student Christian Loew
When an organism is exposed to life-threatening conditions, it sounds the alarm and a cellular emergency program, the heat shock response, is initiated. However, the name “heat shock response” is misleading.
When a cell is exposed to life-threatening conditions, the protein HSF1 (marked in green) initiates an emergency program to prevent permanent damage to the cell.
Picture: Christian Loew / Copyright: MPI of Biochemistry
In the beginning of the 1960s, this form of stress response was first observed. Scientists exposed fruit flies to high temperatures and discovered a complex emergency program designated to save single cells and thus the organism itself. Today researchers know that this program is also triggered by other dangers such as radiation or toxic substances. The terminology, however, is still in use.
During the heat shock response, different stress proteins are synthesized. Their task is to prevent permanent damage to the organism. “You can compare it to an emergency alert. In order to restore the original status as soon as possible, problems and damages are identified, counter-measures initiated and coordinated”, Loew describes the processes in the cell.
In a comprehensive analysis, the Max Planck scientists have investigated 15 000 proteins and their role in the heat shock response. They could show that the helpers are organized in different groups according to their tasks and disaster zones. One group of proteins, for instance, checks whether the DNA in the nucleus is still intact.
The protein HSF1 (short for heat shock transcription factor) is responsible for the central coordination of the disaster management. In the moment it is activated, it calls a variety of other proteins into action to eliminate the damages. The scientists could demonstrate two ways in which this control center in itself is regulated. When the crisis is overcome, HSF1 is degraded by the cell’s waste disposal system, the proteasome. As long as there is still damage to get rid of, another protein (Acetyltransferase EP300) prevents the degradation.
The understanding of the heat shock response could also be of interest for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, so the scientists in Martinsried hope. Typical for these diseases are massive cell damages and, thus, the excessive demand on the cellular quality control. Nerve cells die and cannot fulfill their tasks in the brain anymore. “A targeted activation of the heat shock response could reduce the disease specific cell damages,” explains Loew.
S. Raychaudhuri, C. Loew, R. Körner, S. Pinkert, M. Theis, M. Hayer-Hartl, F. Buchholz and F. U. Hartl: Interplay of Acetyltransferase EP300 and the Proteasome System in Regulating Heat Shock Transcription Factor 1. Cell, February 27, 2014.
Prof. Dr. F.-Ulrich Hartl
Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry
Am Klopferspitz 18
Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry
Am Klopferspitz 18
Tel. +49 89 8578-2824
Anja Konschak | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
New findings help to better calculate the oceans’ contribution to climate regulation
14.11.2018 | Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH
How algae and carbon fibers could sustainably reduce the athmospheric carbon dioxide concentration
14.11.2018 | Technische Universität München
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly
The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
14.11.2018 | Materials Sciences
14.11.2018 | Health and Medicine
14.11.2018 | Life Sciences