In our previous studies of heat-shock protein (hsp) expression in congeneric marine gastropods of the genus Tegula, we observed interspecific and acclimation-induced variation in the temperatures at which heat-shock gene expression is induced (Ton). To investigate the factors responsible for these inter- and intraspecific differences in Ton, we tested the predictions of the ‘cellular thermometer’ model for the transcriptional regulation of hsp expression. According to this model, hsps not active in chaperoning unfolded proteins bind to a transcription factor, heat-shock factor-1 (HSF1), thereby reducing the levels of free HSF1 that are available to bind to the heat-shock element, a regulatory element upstream of hsp genes. Under stress, hsps bind to denatured proteins, releasing HSF1, which can now activate hsp gene transcription. Thus, elevated levels of heat-shock proteins of the 40, 70 and 90 kDa families (hsp 40, hsp70 and hsp90, respectively) would be predicted to elevate Ton. Conversely, elevated levels of HSF1 would be predicted to decrease Ton. Following laboratory acclimation to 13, 18 and 23°C, we used solid-phase immunochemistry (western analysis) to quantify endogenous levels of two hsp70 isoforms (hsp74 and hsp72), hsp90 and HSF1 in the low- to mid-intertidal species Tegula funebralis and in two subtidal to low-intertidal congeners, T. brunnea and T. montereyi. We found higher endogenous levels of hsp72 (a strongly heat-induced isoform) at 13 and 18°C in T. funebralis in comparison with T. brunnea and T. montereyi. However, T. funebralis also had higher levels of HSF1 than its congeners. The higher levels of HSF1 in T. funebralis cannot, within the framework of the cellular thermometer model, account for the higher Ton observed for this species, although they may explain why T. funebralis is able to induce the heat-shock response more rapidly than T. brunnea. However, the cellular thermometer model does appear to explain the cause of the increases in Ton that occurred during warm acclimation of the two subtidal species, in which warm acclimation was accompanied by increased levels of hsp72, hsp74 and hsp90, whereas levels of HSF1 remained stable. T. funebralis, which experiences greater heat stress than its subtidal congeners, consistently had higher ratios of hsp72 to hsp74 than its congeners, although the sum of levels of the two isoforms was similar for all three species except at the highest acclimation temperature (23°C). The ratio of hsp72 to hsp74 may provide a more accurate estimate of environmental heat stress than the total concentrations of both hsp70 isoforms.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/ltomanek/9/