Hsp70s are ubiquitous and highly conserved molecular chaperones that play multiple essential roles in maintaining cellular protein homeostasis through assisting in protein folding, assembly, degradation, and transportation across membrane. The fundamental importance of maintaining protein homeostasis inevitably links Hsp70s with many destructive human diseases, most notably cancers and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Thus, elucidating the structural and biochemical properties of Hsp70s will not only advance our understanding of the basic molecular mechanism of Hsp70-assited protein folding, but also provide crucial insights regarding how to target Hsp70s for therapeutic interventions in treating cancers and neurodegenerative disorders. Hsp70s have three key biochemical activities that are at the heart of the chaperone activity: ATPase, peptide substrate binding, and ATP-induced allosteric coupling. In spite of extensive efforts, the very basic mechanism of Hsp70-assisted protein folding is still ill-defined due to the lack of in-depth understanding o two key biochemical activities: 1) ATP-induced allosteric coupling is central to Hsp70s'chaperone activity~ however, all previous studies had failed to reveal the molecular mechanism. 2) The well-established single peptide binding site on Hsp70s has made it difficult to explain the efficient chaperone activity. Could there be additional peptide binding sites on Hsp70s that account for the high efficiency? Thus, the overall objective of this proposal is to analyze these two key biochemical activities in order to dissect the basic mechanisms of Hsp70 chaperone function. Recently, we solved the first crystal structure of an intact Hsp70 in the allosteric active state, and discovered a novel peptide substrate binding site on Hsp70s. Based on these original discoveries, we propose the following two Specific Aims: 1) elucidate the molecular mechanism of the ATP-driven allosteric coupling in Hsp70s, and 2) characterize a novel peptide binding site on Hsp70s and investigate its role in protein folding. To achieve our goal, we use a multidisciplinary approach combining X-ray crystallography, biochemistry, NMR, EPR, computational chemistry, and yeast and E.coli genetics. We expect that successful completion of this proposal will help us realize our long-term goal, which is to establish a thoroug mechanism understanding of the very basic mechanism of Hsp70 chaperone activity in protein folding.

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The ubiquitous molecular chaperone Hsp70s play multiple essential roles in maintaining cellular protein homeostasis, imbalance of which leads to many devastating human diseases, including cancers and neurodegenerative diseases. In this proposal, we aim to understand the basic molecular mechanism of Hsp70s'chaperone activity in maintaining protein homeostasis, and thereby provide crucial insights on how to target them for treating cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
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Membrane Biology and Protein Processing (MBPP)
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Maas, Stefan
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Virginia Commonwealth University
Schools of Medicine
United States
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