Hsp47, a collagen-specific molecular chaperone that localizes in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), is indispensable for molecular maturation of collagen. Hsp47, which is encoded by the SERPINH1 gene, belongs to the serpin family and has the serpin fold; however, it has no serine protease inhibitory activity. Hsp47 transiently binds to procollagen in the ER, dissociates in the cis-Golgi or ER-Golgi intermediate compartment (ERGIC) in a pH-dependent manner, and is then transported back to the ER via its RDEL retention sequence. Hsp47 recognizes collagenous (Gly-Xaa-Arg) repeats on triple-helical procollagen and can prevent local unfolding and/or aggregate formation of procollagen. Gene disruption of Hsp47 in mice causes embryonic lethality due to impairments in basement membrane and collagen fibril formation. In Hsp47-knockout cells, the type I collagen triple helix forms abnormally, resulting in thin and frequently branched fibrils. Secretion of type I collagens is slow and plausible in making aggregates of procollagens in the ER of hsp47-knocked out fibroblasts, which are ultimately degraded by autophagy. Mutations in Hsp47 are causally associated with osteogenesis imperfecta. Expression of Hsp47 is strongly correlated with expression of collagens in multiple types of cells and tissues. Therefore, Hsp47 represents a promising target for treatment of collagen-related disorders, including fibrosis of the liver, lung, and other organs.
Keywords: Collagen; Fibrosis; Heat-shock protein; Molecular chaperone; Osteogenesis imperfecta; Serpin.
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