The 70-kDa heat shock protein (HSP70) family of molecular chaperones represents one of the most ubiquitous classes of chaperones and is highly conserved in all organisms. Members of the HSP70 family control all aspects of cellular proteostasis such as nascent protein chain folding, protein import into organelles, recovering of proteins from aggregation, and assembly of multi-protein complexes. These chaperones augment organismal survival and longevity in the face of proteotoxic stress by enhancing cell viability and facilitating protein damage repair. Extracellular HSP70s have a number of cytoprotective and immunomodulatory functions, the latter either in the context of facilitating the cross-presentation of immunogenic peptides via major histocompatibility complex (MHC) antigens or in the context of acting as "chaperokines" or stimulators of innate immune responses. Studies have linked the expression of HSP70s to several types of carcinoma, with Hsp70 expression being associated with therapeutic resistance, metastasis, and poor clinical outcome. In malignantly transformed cells, HSP70s protect cells from the proteotoxic stress associated with abnormally rapid proliferation, suppress cellular senescence, and confer resistance to stress-induced apoptosis including protection against cytostatic drugs and radiation therapy. All of the cellular activities of HSP70s depend on their adenosine-5'-triphosphate (ATP)-regulated ability to interact with exposed hydrophobic surfaces of proteins. ATP hydrolysis and adenosine diphosphate (ADP)/ATP exchange are key events for substrate binding and Hsp70 release during folding of nascent polypeptides. Several proteins that bind to distinct subdomains of Hsp70 and consequently modulate the activity of the chaperone have been identified as HSP70 co-chaperones. This review focuses on the regulation, function, and relevance of the molecular Hsp70 chaperone machinery to disease and its potential as a therapeutic target.
Keywords: Disease relevance; Function; Hsp70; Inhibitors; Regulation; Structure; Therapeutic implications.