Stress proteins.

P M Filipe, A C Fernandes


Cells from all organisms have developed a remarkable number of strategies to deal with adverse changes in their environment. One of these protective mechanisms is the heat shock response, or stress response, characterized by the extremely rapid increased expression of a selected group of proteins--the heat shock proteins (hsp)--after a sudden increase in the normal cellular growth temperature. The same response takes place when cells are subjected to a wide variety of other stressors: a) environmental assaults: exposure to heavy metals, alcohols, inhibitors of energy metabolism, amino acid analogues; b) states of disease: ischemia, oxidative injury, infectious diseases, immunity disorders and malignancy. On the other hand, some hsp are believed to play an important role in protein maturation steps and in cellular development and differentiation. The understanding of stress response is still incomplete but the promise of its medical applications for fighting against ischemia, infection, immunity diseases and cancer is clearly on the horizon.

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