Mathematical modeling of heat shock protein synthesis in response to temperature change

J Theor Biol. 2009 Aug 7;259(3):562-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2009.03.021. Epub 2009 Mar 25.


One of the most important questions in cell biology is how cells cope with rapid changes in their environment. The range of common molecular responses includes a dramatic change in the pattern of gene expression and the elevated synthesis of so-called heat shock (or stress) proteins (HSPs). Induction of HSPs increases cell survival under stress conditions [Morimoto, R.I., 1993. Cells in stress: transcriptional activation of heat shock genes. Science 259, 1409-1410]. In this paper we propose a mathematical model of heat shock protein synthesis induced by an external temperature stimulus. Our model consists of a system of nine nonlinear ordinary differential equations describing the temporal evolution of the key variables involved in the regulation of HSP synthesis. Computational simulations of our model are carried out for different external temperature stimuli. We compare our model predictions with experimental data for three different cases-one corresponding to heat shock, the second corresponding to slow heating conditions and the third corresponding to a short heat shock (lasting about 40 min). We also present our model predictions for heat shocks carried out up to different final temperatures and finally we present a new hypothesis concerning the molecular response to stress that explains some phenomena observed in experiments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells / metabolism*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Heat-Shock Response / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Temperature
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger