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PloS one

Inhibiting heat shock factor 1 in human cancer cells with a potent RNA aptamer.


PMID 24800749

Abstract

Heat shock factor 1 (HSF1) is a master regulator that coordinates chaperone protein expression to enhance cellular survival in the face of heat stress. In cancer cells, HSF1 drives a transcriptional program distinct from heat shock to promote metastasis and cell survival. Its strong association with the malignant phenotype implies that HSF1 antagonists may have general and effective utilities in cancer therapy. For this purpose, we had identified an avid RNA aptamer for HSF1 that is portable among different model organisms. Extending our previous work in yeast and Drosophila, here we report the activity of this aptamer in human cancer cell lines. When delivered into cells using a synthetic gene and strong promoter, this aptamer was able to prevent HSF1 from binding to its DNA regulation elements. At the cellular level, expression of this aptamer induced apoptosis and abolished the colony-forming capability of cancer cells. At the molecular level, it reduced chaperones and attenuated the activation of the MAPK signaling pathway. Collectively, these data demonstrate the advantage of aptamers in drug target validation and support the hypothesis that HSF1 DNA binding activity is a potential target for controlling oncogenic transformation and neoplastic growth.