The stability and activity of numerous signaling proteins in both normal and cancer cells depends on the dimeric molecular chaperone heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90). Hsp90's function is coupled to ATP binding and hydrolysis and requires a series of conformational changes that are regulated by cochaperones and numerous posttranslational modifications (PTMs). SUMOylation is one of the least-understood Hsp90 PTMs. Here, we show that asymmetric SUMOylation of a conserved lysine residue in the N domain of both yeast (K178) and human (K191) Hsp90 facilitates both recruitment of the adenosine triphosphatase (ATPase)-activating cochaperone Aha1 and, unexpectedly, the binding of Hsp90 inhibitors, suggesting that these drugs associate preferentially with Hsp90 proteins that are actively engaged in the chaperone cycle. Importantly, cellular transformation is accompanied by elevated steady-state N domain SUMOylation, and increased Hsp90 SUMOylation sensitizes yeast and mammalian cells to Hsp90 inhibitors, providing a mechanism to explain the sensitivity of cancer cells to these drugs.
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