Trehalose is required for conformational repair of heat-denatured proteins in the yeast endoplasmic reticulum but not for maintenance of membrane traffic functions after severe heat stress


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Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells grown at physiological temperature 24°C require preconditioning at 37°C to acquire tolerance towards brief exposure to 48–50°C. During preconditioning, the cytosolic trehalose content increases remarkably and in the absence of trehalose synthesis yeast cannot acquire thermotolerance. It has been speculated that trehalose protects proteins and membranes under environmental stress conditions, but recently it was shown to assist the Hsp104 chaperone in refolding of heat-damaged proteins in the yeast cytosol. We have demonstrated that heat-denatured proteins residing in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) also can be refolded once the cells are returned to physiological temperature. Unexpectedly, not only ER chaperones but also the cytosolic Hsp104 chaperone is required for conformational repair events in the ER lumen. Here we show that trehalose facilitates refolding of glycoproteins in the ER after severe heat stress. In the absence of Tps1p, a subunit of trehalose synthase, refolding of heat-damaged glycoproteins to bioactive and secretion-competent forms failed or was retarded. In contrast, membrane traffic operated many hours after severe heat stress even in the absence of the TPS1 gene, demonstrating that trehalose had no role in thermoprotection of membranes engaged in vesicular traffic. However, cytosolic proteins were aggregated and protein synthesis abolished, resulting finally in cell death.