Cell death & disease

The elimination of miR-23a in heat-stressed cells promotes NOXA-induced cell death and is prevented by HSP70.

PMID 25429623


Protein-damaging stress stimulates cell destruction through apoptosis; however, non-lethal proteotoxic stress induces an adaptive response leading to the increased synthesis of heat shock proteins, which inhibit apoptosis. In this study, we sought to determine the mechanism responsible for the accumulation of the BH3-only protein NOXA in heat-stressed cells and its prevention by the heat shock protein HSP70. Analysis of transcript levels by RT-qPCR revealed that miR-23a levels decreased in heat-stressed cells and that this was correlated with an increased abundance of NOXA mRNA, which contains a miR-23a binding site in its 3' untranslated region. Cells overexpressing HSP70 had higher levels of miR-23a, maintained these levels after heat shock and accumulated lower levels of NOXA mRNA and protein. The enhanced abundance of mir-23a in these HSP70-expressing cells is primarily due to its increased stability although higher levels of pri/pre-miR-23a expression, nuclear export and maturation were also contributing factors. Stable overexpression of miR-23a in the acute lymphoblastic T-cell line PEER resulted in reduced basal and heat-induced levels of NOXA mRNA and significantly inhibited heat-induced apoptosis. Additionally, stable overexpression of an shRNA targeting miR-23a in U937 lymphoma cells produced stable knockdown of miR-23a and resulted in increased NOXA mRNA and an increased sensitivity to heat-induced apoptosis. These results demonstrate the novel finding that hyperthermia affects the abundance of a microRNA that targets the expression of a pro-apoptotic protein and that HSP70 protects cells from heat-induced apoptosis by regulating the abundance of this microRNA. We speculate that the inhibition of miRNA transcription in heat-stressed cells could represent a general mechanism for apoptosis induction that is regulated by the molecular chaperone protein HSP70. Furthermore, we propose that HSP70 could be beneficial to tumor cells by helping to maintain the expression of oncogenic miRNAs under conditions of cellular stress.