In mammals the stress-inducible expression of genes encoding heat shock proteins is under the control of the heat shock transcription factor 1 (HSF1). Activation of HSF1 is a multistep process, involving trimerization, acquisition of DNA-binding and transcriptional activities, which coincide with several posttranslational modifications. Stress-inducible phosphorylation of HSF1, or hyperphosphorylation, which occurs mainly within the regulatory domain (RD), has been proposed as a requirement for HSF-driven transcription and is widely used for assessing HSF1 activation. Nonetheless, the contribution of hyperphosphorylation to the activity of HSF1 remains unknown. In this study, we generated a phosphorylation-deficient HSF1 mutant (HSF1Δ∼PRD), where the 15 known phosphorylation sites within the RD were disrupted. Our results show that the phosphorylation status of the RD does not affect the subcellular localization and DNA-binding activity of HSF1. Surprisingly, under stress conditions, HSF1Δ∼PRD is a potent transactivator of both endogenous targets and a reporter gene, and HSF1Δ∼PRD has a reduced activation threshold. Our results provide the first direct evidence for uncoupling stress-inducible phosphorylation of HSF1 from its activation, and we propose that the phosphorylation signature alone is not an appropriate marker for HSF1 activity.
Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.