sHsps and their role in the chaperone network
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Small Hsps (sHsps) encompass a widespread but diverse class of proteins. These low molecular mass proteins (15—42 kDa) form dynamic oligomeric structures ranging from 9 to 50 subunits. sHsps display chaperone function in vitro, and in addition they have been suggested to be involved in the inhibition of apoptosis, organisation of the cytoskeleton and establishing the refractive properties of the eye lens in the case of α-crystallin. How these different functions can be explained by a common mechanism is unclear at present. However, as most of the observed phenomena involve nonnative protein, the repeatedly reported chaperone properties of sHsps seem to be of key importance for understanding their function. In contrast to other chaperone families, sHsps bind several nonnative proteins per oligomeric complex, thus representing the most efficient chaperone family in terms of the quantity of substrate binding. In some cases, the release of substrate proteins from the sHsp complex is achieved in cooperation with Hsp70 in an ATP-dependent reaction, suggesting that the role of sHsps in the network of chaperones is to create a reservoir of nonnative refoldable protein.
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