Heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) is a molecular chaperone required for the stability and function of many signaling proteins that are often activated, mutated or over-expressed in cancer cells and that underly cancer cell proliferation and survival. Hsp90 is a conformationally flexible protein that associates with a distinct set of co-chaperones depending on ATP or ADP occupancy of an amino-terminal binding pocket. Nucleotide exchange and ATP hydrolysis by Hsp90 itself, with the assistance of co-chaperones, drive the Hsp90 chaperone machine to bind, chaperone, and release client proteins. Cycling of the Hsp90 chaperone machine is critical to its function. Although ATP binding and hydrolysis have been convincingly implicated in regulating the Hsp90 cycle, growing evidence suggests that various post-translational modifications of Hsp90, including phosphorylation, acetylation, and other modifications, provide an additional overlapping or parallel level of regulation. A more complete understanding of how these various protein modifications are regulated and interact with each other at the cellular level to modulate Hsp90 chaperone activity is critical to the design of novel approaches to inhibit this medically important molecular target. Coordination of signaling pathways that mediate distinct post-translational modifications of Hsp90 is highly likely. Understanding the cross-talk between various modifications will no doubt be a difficult undertaking, but such knowledge will add greatly to our appreciation of how Hsp90 function is regulated in the complex milieu of the cell. Such information may provide a unique approach to specific interdiction of Hsp90 function in cancer cells and will thus be an important consideration in designing clinical trials of Hsp90 inhibitors in combination with other molecularly targeted drugs. A more thorough understanding of the role that post-translational modifications play in modulating Hsp90 function will certainly improve the effectiveness of such combination therapies. Hsp90 is subject to an array of posttranslational modifications that affect its function, including acetylation. Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors and knockdown of HDAC6 induce Hsp90 acetylation and inhibit its activity. However, direct determination of the functional consequences of Hsp90 acetylation has awaited mapping of specific sites. We have demonstrated that Hsp90 K294 is acetylated. Mutational analysis of K294 shows that its acetylation status is a strong determinant of client protein and cochaperone binding. In yeast, Hsp90 mutants that cannot be acetylated at K294 have reduced viability and chaperone function compared to WT or to mutants that mimic constitutive acetylation. These data suggest that acetylation/deacetylation of K294 plays an important role in regulating the Hsp90 chaperone cycle. Further studies are focusing on phosphorylation of specific amino acids in Hsp90 and of the affect of these post-translational changes on Hsp90 affinity for inhibitory drugs.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
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National Cancer Institute Division of Basic Sciences
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