Cell Stress and Chaperones

, 15:101 | Cite as

The mechanism whereby heat shock induces apoptosis depends on the innate sensitivity of cells to stress

  • Kerstin Bellmann
  • Steve J. CharetteEmail author
  • Philippe J. Nadeau
  • Dominic J. Poirier
  • Anne Loranger
  • Jacques Landry
Original Paper


The cellular response to heat shock (HS) is a paradigm for many human diseases collectively known as “protein conformation diseases” in which the accumulation of misfolded proteins induces cell death. Here, we analyzed how cells having a different apoptotic threshold die subsequent to a treatment with HS. Cells with a low apoptotic threshold mainly induced apoptosis through activation of conventional stress kinase signaling pathways. By contrast, cells with a high apoptotic threshold also died by apoptosis but likely after the accumulation of heat-aggregated proteins as revealed by the formation of aggresomes in these cells, which were associated with the generation of atypical nuclear deformations. Inhibition of the proteasome or expression of an aggregation prone protein produced similar nuclear alterations. Furthermore, elevated levels of chaperones markedly suppressed both HS-induced nuclear deformations and apoptosis induced upon protein aggregation whereas they had little effect on stress kinase-mediated apoptosis. We conclude that the relative contribution of stress signaling pathways and the accumulation of protein aggregates to cell death by apoptosis is related to the innate sensitivity of cells to deadly insults.


Apoptosis Aggresome Heat shock Huntingtin Nuclei morphology Proteasome 



We thank R.J. Youle, D. Baltimore, R.D. Goldman, P.Y. Perche, D.C. Rubinsztein, and R.R. Kopito for their generous contribution of reagents. This study was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Grant MOP-7088 and the Canada Research Chair in Stress Signal Transduction.

Supplementary material

12192_2009_126_Fig1_ESM.gif (16 kb)
Figure S1

Typical examples of cell fate obtained by live cell imaging. Rat1-control cells were transfected with H2A-GFP and then heated for 45 min at 43.5°C (B) or not (A) before their analysis by live imaging. Each horizontal line represents one living cell. Small vertical lines indicate mitotic events. Periods of time where cells displayed a typical HS-induced nuclear deformation are illustrated by dotted lines. Asterisks indicate apoptotic events. Numbers indicate time after HS in hour

12192_2009_126_Fig1_ESM.eps (439 kb)
High resolution image. (EPS 438 kb)
Figure S2

Movie of Rat1-control cells expressing H2A-GFP after HS treatment. Rat1-control cells were transfected with H2A-GFP and then heated for 45 min at 43.5°C before their analysis by live imaging. The movie starts 1 h after HS treatment and covers a period of 24 h post-HS (one image every 30 min). All the nuclei present a deformed morphology. Two apoptotic events occur (one in the middle of the field and a second in the top right of the field after a cell division). (MOV 2355 kb)

Figure S3

Movie of Rat1-myc cells expressing H2A-GFP after HS treatment. Rat1-myc cells were transfected with H2A-GFP and then heated for 45 min at 43.5°C before their analysis by live imaging. The movie starts 1 h after HS treatment and covers a period of 24 h post-HS (one image every 30 min). All the nuclei present a deformed morphology and then the cells die by apoptosis. (MOV 1197 kb)


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Copyright information

© Cell Stress Society International 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kerstin Bellmann
    • 1
  • Steve J. Charette
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Philippe J. Nadeau
    • 1
  • Dominic J. Poirier
    • 1
  • Anne Loranger
    • 1
  • Jacques Landry
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre de recherche en cancérologie de l’Université LavalL’Hôtel-Dieu de QuébecQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire de cardiologie et de pneumologie de Québec (Hôpital Laval)QuébecCanada

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