Induction of heat shock proteins (Hsps) is under investigation as treatment for neurodegenerative disorders, yet many types of neurons, including motor neurons that degenerate in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), have a high threshold for activation of the major transcription factor mediating stress-induced Hsp upregulation, heat shock transcription factor 1 (Hsf1). Hsf1 is tightly regulated by a series of inhibitory checkpoints that include sequestration in multichaperone complexes governed by Hsp90. This study examined the role of multichaperone complexes in governing the heat shock response in motor neurons. Hsp90 inhibitors induced expression of Hsp70 and Hsp40 and transactivation of a human inducible hsp70 promoter–green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter construct in motor neurons of dissociated spinal cord–dorsal root ganglion (DRG) cultures. On the other hand, overexpression of activator of Hsp90 adenosine triphosphatase ([ATPase 1], Aha1), which should mobilize Hsf1 by accelerating turnover of mature, adenosine triphosphate–(ATP) bound Hsp90 complexes, and death domain–associated protein (Daxx), which in cell lines has been shown to promote transcription of heat shock genes by relieving inhibition exerted by interactions between nuclear Hsp90/multichaperone complexes and trimeric Hsf1, failed to induce Hsps in the absence or presence of heat shock. These results indicate that disruption of multichaperone complexes alone is not sufficient to activate the neuronal heat shock response. Furthermore, in motor neurons, induction of Hsp70 by Hsp90-inhibiting drugs was prevented by overexpression of wild-type Hsf1, contrary to what would be expected for a classical Hsf1-mediated pathway. These results point to additional differences in regulation of hsp genes in neuronal and nonneuronal cells.
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