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Hugo Tapia

Advisor: Kevin Morano, Ph.D.

Accepted post-doctoral position at UC Berkeley after receiving PhD

The eukaryotic stress response is an essential mechanism that helps protect cells from a variety of environmental stresses. Cell death can result if cells are not able to properly adapt and protect themselves against adverse stress conditions. Failure to properly deal with stress has implications in human diseases including neurodegenerative disorders and distinct cancers, emphasizing the importance of understanding the eukaryotic stress response in detail. As part of this response, expression of a battery of heat shock proteins (HSP) is induced, which act as molecular chaperones to assist in the repair or triage of unfolded proteins.

The 90-kDa HSP (Hsp90) operates in the context of a multi-chaperone complex to promote the maturation of nuclear and cytoplasmic clients. I have discovered that Hsp90 and the co-chaperone Sba1 accumulate in the nucleus of quiescent Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells in a karyopherin-dependent manner. I isolated nuclear accumulation- defective HSP82 mutant alleles to probe the nature of this targeting event and identified a mutant with a single amino acid substitution (I578F) sufficient to prevent nuclear accumulation of Hsp90 in quiescent cells. Diploid hsp82-I578F cells exhibited pronounced defects in spore wall construction and maturation, resulting in catastrophic sporulation. The mislocalization and sporulation phenotypes were shared by another previously identified HSP82 mutant allele, further linking localization to Hsp90 functional status. Pharmacological inhibition of Hsp90 with macbecin in sporulating diploid cells also blocked spore formation, underscoring the importance of this chaperone in this developmental program and budding yeast systems.

The yeast molecular chaperone Hsp104 is a member of the Hsp100 superfamily of AAA+ ATPases. Unlike the Hsp90 family of chaperones, Hsp104 is not restricted to a specific set of client proteins, but rather assists in reactivating stress-denatured proteins by solubilizing protein aggregates. I have discovered that Hsp104, along with the Hsp70 chaperone, Ssa1, and the sHSP Hsp26 accumulate into RNA processing bodies (P- bodies) and stress granules, sites of mRNA metabolism. I found that Hsp104 recruits both Ssa1 and Hsp26 to P-bodies and that these three chaperones are required for stress granule formation. These findings suggest a possible role for chaperones in mRNA metabolism by aiding in the assembly, disassembly or conversion of these enigmatic mRNP complexes. Taken together, the work presented in this dissertation serves to better understand the eukaryotic stress response by illustrating the importance of subcellular-chaperone localization in key biological processes.


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Research Info

Stress-induced targeting of molecular chaperones in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae