Heat Shock Proteins and Fertility

  • Steven S. WitkinEmail author
  • Iara Moreno Linhares
Part of the Heat Shock Proteins book series (HESP, volume 5)


Rapid cell growth and differentiation, hallmarks of gametogenesis, fertilization, and early embryo development, require the participation of heat shock proteins. Spermatozoa formation and maturation in mammals occurs outside of the body cavity since this process is optimal at a lowered temperature. Heat shock transcription factors (HSF) have specialized functions in spermatogenesis. HSF1 becomes activated in the testes in response to elevated temperature and protects spermatogonia viability. Conversely, the same HSF1 induces apoptosis of spermatocytes that are produced under adverse conditions, insuring that defective spermatozoa are not maintained. A novel HSF, HSFY, is coded by a gene on the Y chromosome; its role during spermatogenesis remains undefined. A testes-specific heat shock protein, hspA2, is essential for male, but not female, germ cell meiosis. Spermatozoa acquire the capacity for fertilization following their deposition in the female genital tract. Two heat shock proteins, HSPD1 and HSP90B1, become exposed on the sperm head, undergo phosphorylation and may direct formation of a complex that binds to a glycoprotein on the surface of the zona pellucida. The constitutive form of the 70 kDa heat shock protein, as well as the 60 kDa heat shock protein (HSP60), appear to function during oogenesis. Preimplantation stage embryo development requires heat shock protein participation. Monoclonal antibodies to heat shock proteins block the in vitro development of mouse and bovine zygotes. The presence of antibodies to heat shock proteins is associated with a failure to become pregnant in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). Chlamydia trachomatis infection of Fallopian tube epithelial cells can lead to development of immunity to conserved regions of the microbial HSP60 that are also expressed on the homologous human HSP60. This interferes with subsequent attempts at conception, either naturally or by IVF. The 70 kDa heat shock protein is also present in amniotic fluid where it may function in the modulation of immune responses


Spermatogenesis oogenesis fertilization embryogenesis amniotic fluid heat shock proteins 



heat shock transcription factors

BV, bacterial vaginosis; IVF

in vitro fertilization


synaptonemal complex


tumor necrosis factor-alpha


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyWeill Medical College of Cornell UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of GynecologyHospital das Clinicas, University of Sao Paulo Medical SchoolSao PauloBrazil

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