The heat shock protein HSP70 affects cancer signaling via its interaction with co-chaperone BAG3
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HSP70 plays an important role in cancer development. However, the molecular role of HSP70 in cancer is poorly understood. Previous work from our laboratory demonstrated that HSP70 is essential for initiation of Her2-positive breast cancer by controlling oncogene-induced senescence. Here we demonstrate that HSP70 is critical for both initiation and progression of mammary cancer. Interestingly, the role of HSP70 in cancer development did not involve its canonical function as a molecular chaperone. Instead, HSP70 had multiple effects on signaling pathway components related to tumor initiation, growth, and metastasis, such as FOXM1, HIF1, NF-𝜅B, and SRC. HSP70 regulated signaling networks via association with the co-chaperone, BAG3, a scaffold protein with capacity to interact with multiple key regulators of cell signaling. Using SRC as a model, we demonstrated that association with HSP70 attenuates BAG3's interaction with the SH3 domain of SRC. We also show that an HSP70-interacting small molecule, YM-1, can specifically inhibit the HSP70-BAG3 signaling axis, leading to selective inhibition of tumor growth in vivo and in vitro. This compound mimicked the effects seen with depletion of HSP70 in a dose dependent manner, providing a proof of principle that the association of HSP70 and BAG3 is needed for regulation of these pathways. Additionally, a second generation of YM-1 analogs, JG-98 and JG-84, were shown to be more potent than YM-1 while acting in a similar fashion on signaling pathways. A less potent analog, JG-36, was not able to modulate these pathways as effectively. These studies demonstrate that the HSP70-BAG3 axis is a major regulator of cancer signaling and suggest that targeting the interface between HSP70 and BAG3 is a novel therapeutic approach.