Heat acclimation and cross-tolerance against novel stressors: genomic-physiological linkage

Prog Brain Res. 2007;162:373-92. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(06)62018-9.


Heat acclimation (AC) is a "within lifetime" reversible phenotypic adaptation, enhancing thermotolerance and heat endurance via a transition to "efficient" cellular performance when acclimatory homeostasis is reached. An inseparable outcome of AC is the development of cross-tolerance (C-T) against novel stressors. This chapter focuses on central plasticity and the molecular-physiological linkage of acclimatory and C-T responses. A drop in temperature thresholds (T-Tsh) for activation of heat-dissipation mechanisms and an elevated T-Tsh for thermal injury development imply autonomic nervous system (ANS) and cytoprotective network involvement in these processes. During acclimation, the changes in T-Tsh for heat dissipation are biphasic. Initially T-Tsh drops, signifying the early autonomic response, and is associated with perturbed peripheral effector cellular performance. Pre-acclimation values return when acclimatory homeostasis is achieved. The changes in the ANS suggest that acclimatory plasticity involves molecular and cellular changes. These changes are manifested by the activation of central peripheral molecular networks and post-translational modifications. Sympathetic induction of elevated HSP 72 reservoirs, with faster heat shock response, is only one example of this. The global genomic response, detected using gene-chips and cluster analyses imply upregulation of genes encoding ion channels, pumps, and transporters (markers for neuronal excitability) in the hypothalamus at the onset of AC and down regulation of metabotrophic genes upon long term AC. Peripherally, the transcriptional program indicates a two-tier defense strategy. The immediate transient response is associated with the maintenance of DNA and cellular integrity. The sustained response correlates with long-lasting cytoprotective-signaling networks. C-T is recorded against cerebral hypoxia, hyperoxia, and traumatic brain injury. Using the highly developed ischemic/reperfused heart model as a baseline, it is evident that C-T stems via protective shared pathways developed with AC. These comprise constitutive elevation of HIF 1alpha and associated target pathways, HSPs, anti-apoptosis, and antioxidative pathways. Collectively the master regulators of AC and C-T are still enigmatic; however, cutting-edge investigative techniques, using a broad molecular approach, challenge current ideas, and the data accumulated will pinpoint novel pathways and provide new perspectives.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization*
  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genomics*
  • Heat Stress Disorders / genetics*
  • Heat Stress Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / metabolism


  • Heat-Shock Proteins