Heat shock transcription factors (HSFs) mediate the inducible transcriptional response of genes that encode heat shock proteins and molecular chaperones. In vertebrates, three related HSF genes (HSF1 to -3) and the respective gene products (HSFs) have been characterized. We report the cloning and characterization of human HSF4 (hHSF4), a novel member of the hHSF family that shares properties with other members of the HSF family yet appears to be functionally distinct. hHSF4 lacks the carboxyl-terminal hydrophobic repeat which is shared among all vertebrate HSFs and has been suggested to be involved in the negative regulation of DNA binding activity. hHSF4 is preferentially expressed in the human heart, brain, skeletal muscle, and pancreas. Transient transfection of hHSF4 in HeLa cells, which do not express hHSF4, results in a constitutively active DNA binding trimer which, unlike other members of the HSF family, lacks the properties of a transcriptional activator. Constitutive overexpression of hHSF4 in HeLa cells results in reduced expression of the endogenous hsp70, hsp90, and hsp27 genes. hHSF4 represents a novel hHSF that exhibits tissue-specific expression and functions to repress the expression of genes encoding heat shock proteins and molecular chaperones
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