Posttranslational modifications in histones underlie heat acclimation-mediated cytoprotective memory

Anna Tetievsky, Michal Horowitz


We have demonstrated that heat acclimation (AC) causes selective, long-lasting, transcriptional changes in cytoprotective and chromatin remodeling-associated genes, which maintain their AC transcriptome profile, despite the loss of the AC phenotype (Tetievsky et al. Physiol Genomics 34: 78–87, 2008). We postulated that AC memory involves upstream epigenetic information, which predisposes to rapid reacclimation (ReAC) and cytoprotective memory. Here we tested the hypothesis that posttranslational histone modifications are linked to this process. Rats subjected to AC (34°C for 2 or 30 days), deacclimation (DeAC; 24°C, 30 days), and ReAC (34°C, 2 days), and untreated controls were used. Histone H4 lysine acetylation and histone H3 acetylation and phosphorylation in the heat shock element (HSE) of the promoters of heat shock protein-70 (hsp70) and -90 (hsp90) genes were examined. Histone acetyltransferase recruitment of TIP60 (60-kDa histone acetyltransferase-interactive protein), the catalytic subunit of NuH4, was used to validate acetylation. Heat shock factor-1 (HSF-1)-HSE binding to the hsp70 and hsp90 genes was measured to confirm HSF-1 binding to euchromatin. Our results indicate that, while histone H3Ser10 phosphorylation occurred during the AC 2-day phase, AC constitutively elevated histone H4 acetylation in the HSE of hsp70 and hsp90 promoters. HSF-1-HSE binding was detected in the hsp70 gene throughout AC-DeAC-ReAC. The hsp90 gene lacked HSF-1 binding during DeAC, but resumed a high binding level upon ReAC. HSP-90 is a critical cytoprotective protein, and the HSF-1-hsp90 binding profile matched levels of this protein. We conclude that, while early histone H3 phosphorylation is probably required for subsequent histone H4 acetylation, the constitutively acetylated histone H4 and the preserved euchromatin state throughout AC-DeAC-ReAC predispose to rapid cytoprotective acclimatory memory.

  • histone H4 acetylation
  • histone H3 phosphorylation
  • hsp70
  • hsp90
  • heat shock factor-1-heat shock element binding
  • cytoprotective memory
  • epigenome
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