Background: Heat Shock Transcription Factor 1 (HSF1) is activated under stress conditions. In turn, it induces expression of Heat Shock Proteins (HSPs), which are well-known regulators of protein homeostasis. Elevated levels of HSF1 and HSPs were observed in many types of tumors. The aim of the present study was to determine whether HSF1 could have an effect on the survival of cancer cells treated with chemotherapeutic cytotoxic agents.
Methods: We constructed mouse (B16F10) and human (1205Lu, WM793B) melanoma cells overexpressing full or mutant form of human HSF1: a constitutively active one with a deletion in regulatory domain or a dominant negative one with a deletion in the activation domain. The impact of different forms of HSF1 on the expression of HSP and ABC genes was studied by RT-PCR and Western blotting. Cell cultures were treated with increasing amounts of doxorubicin, paclitaxel, cisplatin, vinblastine or bortezomib. Cell viability was determined by MTT, and IC50 was calculated. Cellular accumulation of fluorescent dyes and side population cells were studied using flow cytometry.
Results: Cells overexpressing HSF1 and characterized by increased HSPs accumulation were more resistant to doxorubicin or paclitaxel, but not to cisplatin, vinblastine or bortezomib. This resistance correlated with the enhanced efflux of fluorescent dyes and the increased number of side population cells. The expression of constitutively active mutant HSF1, also resulting in HSPs overproduction, did not reduce the sensitivity of melanoma cells to drugs, unlike in the case of dominant negative form expression. Cells overexpressing a full or dominant negative form of HSF1, but not a constitutively active one, had higher transcription levels of ABC genes when compared to control cells.
Conclusions: HSF1 overexpression facilitates the survival of melanoma cells treated with doxorubicin or paclitaxel. However, HSF1-mediated chemoresistance is not dependent on HSPs accumulation but on an increased potential for drug efflux by ABC transporters. Direct transcriptional activity of HSF1 is not necessary for increased expression of ABC genes, which is probably mediated by HSF1 regulatory domain.