The use of stress-70 proteins in physiology: a re-appraisal



There are few factors more important to the mechanisms of evolution than stress. The stress response has formed as a result of natural selection, improving the capacity of organisms to withstand situations that require action. The ubiquity of the cellular stress response suggests that effective mechanisms to counteract stress emerged early in the history of life, and their commonality proves how vital such mechanisms are to operative evolution. The cellular stress response (CSR) has been identified as a characteristic of cells in all three domains of life and consists of a core 44 proteins that are structurally highly conserved and that have been termed the ‘minimal stress proteome’ (MSP). Within the MSP, the most intensely researched proteins are a family of heat-shock proteins known as HSP70. Superficially, correlations between the induction of stress and HSP70 differential expression support the use of HSP70 expression as a nonspecific biomarker of stress. However, we argue that too often authors have failed to question exactly what HSP70 differential expression signifies. Herein, we argue that HSP70 up-regulation in response to stressors has been shown to be far more complex than the commonly accepted quasi-linear relationship. In addition, in many instances, the uncertain identity and function of heat-shock proteins and heat-shock cognates has led to difficulties in interpretation of reports of inducible heat-shock proteins and constitutive heat-shock cognates. We caution against the broad application of HSP70 as a biomarker of stress in isolation and conclude that the application of HSP70 as a meaningful index of stress requires a higher degree of validation than the majority of research currently undertakes.