Heat shock proteins are induced under stress conditions and they act as molecular chaperones to refold denatured polypeptides. Stress resistances including thermotolerance generally are correlated with levels of the heat shock proteins. We investigated a fruit fly gene encoding a small heat shock protein, Hsp27, to determine if it functions in stress response of Drosophila melanogaster. A knockout Hsp27 allele was generated. Flies homozygous for this allele were viable, without obvious defects, and fertile, indicating Hsp27 is not essential for development. In stress-response tests, loss of the Hsp27 gene caused no defects in resistance to heat shock or oxidative treatments. However, a significant reduction in starvation resistance was associated with the genotype without a functional Hsp27 gene. The data suggest that the Drosophila HSP27 protein acts as a chaperone to provide cellular stress resistance, although its function may be limited to a subset of the stress response such as the starvation resistance.
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