GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology


Program in Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

First Thesis Advisor

Daniel N. Bolon Ph.D.


HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins, Signal Transduction, Receptors, Steroid, Adenosine Triphosphate, Receptor Aggregation


Among heat shock proteins, Hsp90 is unusual because it is not required for the proper folding of most cellular proteins but rather is disproportionally linked to the activation of signal transduction proteins including over forty kinases and many steroid hormone receptors. Mutated forms of many Hsp90 clients are causative agents in cancer, making Hsp90 a promising pharmacological target. Many small molecular inhibitors have been identified that competitively bind to the ATP binding site of Hsp90, some of which are in clinical trials as anticancer agents. Although the activation of kinase and hormone receptor clients by Hsp90 and its co-chaperones has been extensively studied, the molecular mechanism of client protein activation is poorly understood.

Hsp90 is a dimeric chaperone containing three domains: the N-terminal (N) and middle (M) domains contribute directly to ATP binding and hydrolysis and the C-terminal (C) domain mediates dimerization. At physiological concentration, Hsp90 predominantly forms dimers, but the possibility that full-length monomers might also function in cells has not been tested. In Chapter 3, we used a single-chain strategy to design a full-length Hsp90 monomer (NMCC). The resulting construct was predominantly monomeric at physiological concentration and did not function to support yeast viability as the sole Hsp90. NMCC Hsp90 was also defective at ATP hydrolysis and the activation of kinase and steroid hormone receptor clients in yeast cells. The ability to support yeast growth was rescued by the addition of a coiled-coil dimerization domain, indicating that the parental single-chain construct is functionally defective because it is monomeric.

After finding that a full-length Hsp90 monomer containing only one ATPase site was unable to support yeast viability or activate Hsp90 clients, we set out to further explore the role of ATPase activity in client protein activation. Approximately 10 % of the yeast proteome binds to Hsp90 making it important to study Hsp90 function in the cellular environment where all binding partners are present. In Chapter 4, we observed that co-expression of different Hsp90 subunits in Saccharomyces cerevisiae caused unpredictable synthetic growth defects due to cross-dimerization. We engineered super-stabilized Hsp90 dimers that resisted cross-dimerization with endogenous Hsp90 and alleviated the synthetic growth defect. We utilized these super-stabilized dimers to analyze the ability of ATPase mutant homodimers to activate known Hsp90 client proteins in yeast cells. We found that ATP binding and hydrolysis by Hsp90 are both required for the efficient maturation of the glucocorticoid hormone receptor (GR) and v-src confirming the critical role of ATP hydrolysis in the maturation of steroid hormone receptors and kinases in vivo.

In addition to its role in the activation of signal transduction client proteins, Hsp90 has been shown to suppress the in vitro aggregation of numerous hard-to-fold proteins. In Chapter 5, we examine the role of charge in Hsp90 anti-aggregation activity. The charge on Hsp90 is largely concentrated in two highly acidic regions. We found that deletion of both charge-rich regions dramatically impaired Hsp90 anti-aggregation activity. Addition of an acid-rich region with a distinct amino acid sequence to our double-deleted Hsp90 construct rescued the anti-aggregation activity of Hsp90 indicating that the net charge contributes to its anti-aggregation activity.

The in vitro anti-aggregation activity of Hsp90 studied in Chapter 5 occurs in the absence of ATP. However, all of the biologically important functions of Hsp90 in cells identified to date, including the maturation of kinases and nuclear steroid hormone receptors, clearly require ATP hydrolysis. Why does Hsp90 robustly hinder the aggregation of hard-to-fold proteins without ATP in vitro, but in vivo uses ATP hydrolysis for all of its essential functions? By utilizing separation of function Hsp90 variants (that specifically lack in vitro anti-aggregation activity) we have begun to address this question. We find that anti-aggregation deficient Hsp90 is unable to support yeast growth under stressful conditions, potentially due to reduced cellular expression. Interestingly, the ATP-independent anti-aggregation activity of Hsp90 has no measureable impact on cellular function. Thus, hindering the aggregation of most hard-to- fold proteins by Hsp90 (independent of ATP hydrolysis) does not appear to be important for cell function. These results suggest a cellular model where the Hsp40/60/70 machinery is responsible for hindering the aggregation of most hard-to-fold proteins while Hsp90 assists in the maturation of a select set of clients in an ATP-dependent fashion, potentially aided by its inherent anti-aggregation properties.



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