Heat shock factors at a crossroad between stress and development

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007 Oct:1113:15-27. doi: 10.1196/annals.1391.005. Epub 2007 May 4.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

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


  • Heat-Shock Proteins