A Model of Exposure to Extreme Environmental Heat Uncovers the Human Transcriptome to Heat Stress

Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 25;7(1):9429. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-09819-5.


The molecular mechanisms by which individuals subjected to environmental heat stress either recover or develop heat-related complications are not well understood. We analysed the changes in blood mononuclear gene expression patterns in human volunteers exposed to extreme heat in a sauna (temperature of 75.7 ± 0.86 °C). Our analysis reveals that expression changes occur rapidly with no significant increase in core temperature and continue to amplify one hour after the end of heat stress. The reprogramed transcriptome was predominantly inhibitory, as more than two-thirds of the expressed genes were suppressed. The differentially expressed genes encoded proteins that function in stress-associated pathways; including proteostasis, energy metabolism, cell growth and proliferation, and cell death, and survival. The transcriptome also included mitochondrial dysfunction, altered protein synthesis, and reduced expression of genes -related to immune function. The findings reveal the human transcriptomic response to heat and highlight changes that might underlie the health outcomes observed during heat waves.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Extreme Heat / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Heat-Shock Response / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcriptome*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers