Biological thermometers are cellular components or structures which sense increasing temperatures, interaction of the thermometer and the thermal stress bringing about the switching-on of inducible responses, with gradually enhanced levels of response induction following gradually increasing
temperatures. In enterobacteria, for studies of such thermometers, generally induction of heat shock protein (HSP) synthesis has been examined, with experimental studies aiming to establish (often indirectly) how the temperature changes which initiate HSP synthesis are sensed; numerous other
processes and responses show graded induction as temperature is increased, and how the temperature changes which induce these are sensed is also of interest. Several classes of intracellular component and structure have been proposed as enterobacterial thermometers, with the ribosome and the
DnaK chaperone being the most favoured, although for many of the proposed intracellular thermometers, most of the evidence for their functioning in this way is indirect. In contrast to the above, the studies reviewed here firmly establish that for four distinct stress responses, which are
switched-on gradually as temperature increases, temperature changes are sensed by extracellular components (extracellular sensing components, ESCs) i.e. there is firm and direct evidence for the occurrence of extracellular thermometers. All four thermometers described here are proteins,
which appear to be distinct and different from each other, and on sensing thermal stress are activated by it to four distinct extracellular induction components (EICs), which interact with receptors on the surface of organisms to induce the appropriate responses. It is predicted that many
other temperature-induced processes, including the synthesis of HSPs, will be switched-on following the activation of similar extracellular thermometers by thermal stimuli.
Science Review, PO Box 314, St. Albans, Herts AL1 4ZG, UK
Publication date: February 15, 2003
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