Heat shock factors at a crossroad between stress and development

Malin Akerfelt, Diane Trouillet, Valérie Mezger, Lea Sistonen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Article or Literature Reviewpeer-review


Organisms must be able to sense and respond rapidly to changes in their environment in order to maintain homeostasis and survive. Induction of heat shock proteins (Hsps) is a common cellular defense mechanism for promoting survival in response to various stress stimuli. Heat shock factors (HSFs) are transcriptional regulators of Hsps, which function as molecular chaperones in protecting cells against proteotoxic damage. Mammals have three different HSFs that have been considered functionally distinct: HSF1 is essential for the heat shock response and is also required for developmental processes, whereas HSF2 and HSF4 are important for differentiation and development. Specifically, HSF2 is involved in corticogenesis and spermatogenesis, and HSF4 is needed for maintenance of sensory organs, such as the lens and the olfactory epithelium. Recent evidence, however, suggests a functional interplay between HSF1 and HSF2 in the regulation of Hsp expression under stress conditions. In lens formation, HSF1 and HSF4 have been shown to have opposite effects on gene expression. In this chapter, we present the different roles of the mammalian HSFs as regulators of cellular stress and developmental processes. We highlight the interaction between different HSFs and discuss the discoveries of novel target genes in addition to the classical Hsps.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-27
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental/physiology
  • Heat-Shock Proteins/genetics
  • Heat-Shock Response/genetics
  • Humans
  • Multigene Family
  • Oxidative Stress/genetics


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