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`The Stress Of Dying': The Role Of Heat Shock Proteins In The Regulation Of Apoptosis

Helen M. Beere

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Heat shock proteins (Hsps) are a family of highly homologous chaperone proteins that are induced in response to environmental, physical and chemical stresses and that limit the consequences of damage and facilitate cellular recovery. The underlying ability of Hsps to maintain cell survival correlates with an inhibition of caspase activation and apoptosis that can, but does not always, depend upon their chaperoning activities. Several mechanisms proposed to account for these observations impact on both the `intrinsic', mitochondria-dependent and the `extrinsic', death-receptor-mediated pathways to apoptosis. Hsps can inhibit the activity of pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins to prevent permeabilization of the outer mitochondrial membrane and release of apoptogenic factors. The disruption of apoptosome formation represents another mechanism by which Hsps can prevent caspase activation and induction of apoptosis. Several signaling cascades involved in the regulation of key elements within the apoptotic cascade are also subject to modulation by Hsps, including those involving JNK, NF-κB and AKT. The coordinated activities of the Hsps thus modulate multiple events within apoptotic pathways to help sustain cell survival following damaging stimuli.