Publication Date



Molecular Biology Cell


Stress response pathways allow cells to sense and respond to environmental changes and adverse pathophysiological states. Pharmacological modulation of cellular stress pathways has implications in the treatment of human diseases, including neurodegenerative disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. The quinone methide triterpene celastrol, derived from a traditional Chinese medicinal herb, has numerous pharmacological properties, and it is a potent activator of the mammalian heat shock transcription factor HSF1. However, its mode of action and spectrum of cellular targets are poorly understood. We show here that celastrol activates Hsf1 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae at a similar effective concentration seen in mammalian cells. Transcriptional profiling revealed that celastrol treatment induces a battery of oxidant defense genes in addition to heat shock genes. Celastrol activated the yeast Yap1 oxidant defense transcription factor via the carboxy-terminal redox center that responds to electrophilic compounds. Antioxidant response genes were likewise induced in mammalian cells, demonstrating that the activation of two major cell stress pathways by celastrol is conserved. We report that celastrol's biological effects, including inhibition of glucocorticoid receptor activity, can be blocked by the addition of excess free thiol, suggesting a chemical mechanism for biological activity based on modification of key reactive thiols by this natural product.


Adaptation, Physiological, Antioxidants, Biological Products, Cell Line, Tumor, Cytoprotection, DNA-Binding Proteins, Gene Expression Regulation, Fungal, Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic, Heat-Shock Proteins, Heat-Shock Response, Humans, Models, Biological, Oxidants, Protein Structure, Tertiary, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins, Sulfhydryl Compounds, Temperature, Transcription Factors, Transcription, Genetic, Triterpenes



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.