Small heat-shock proteins (sHsps) of various origins exist commonly as oligomers and exhibit chaperone-like activities in vitro. Hsp16.3, the sHsp from Mycobacterium tuberculosis, was previously shown to exist as a monodisperse nonamer in solution when analyzed by size-exclusion chromatography and electron cryomicroscropy. This study represents part of our effort to understand the chaperone mechanism of Hsp16.3, focusing on the role of the oligomeric status of the protein. Here, we present evidence to show that the Hsp16.3 nonamer dissociates at elevated temperatures, accompanied by a greatly enhanced chaperone-like activity. Moreover, the chaperone-like activity was increased dramatically when the nonameric structure of Hsp16.3 was disturbed by chemical cross-linking, which impeded the correct reassociation of Hsp16.3 nonamer. These suggest that the dissociation of the nonameric structure is a prerequisite for Hsp16.3 to bind to denaturing substrate proteins. On the other hand, our data obtained by using radiolabeled and non-radiolabeled proteins clearly demonstrated that subunit exchange occurs readily between the Hsp16.3 oligomers, even at a temperature as low as 4 degrees C. In light of all these observations, we propose that Hsp16.3, although it appears to be homogeneous when examined at room temperature, actually undertakes rapid dynamic dissociation/reassociation, with the equilibrium, and thus the chaperone-like activities, regulated mainly by the environmental temperature.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd.