HSF-1 is a regulator of miRNA expression in Caenorhabditis elegans.

Research paper by Jessica J Brunquell, Alana A Snyder, Feng F Cheng, Sandy D SD Westerheide

Indexed on: 25 Aug '17Published on: 25 Aug '17Published in: PloS one


The ability of an organism to sense and adapt to environmental stressors is essential for proteome maintenance and survival. The highly conserved heat shock response is a survival mechanism employed by all organisms, including the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, upon exposure to environmental extremes. Transcriptional control of the metazoan heat shock response is mediated by the heat shock transcription factor HSF-1. In addition to regulating global stress-responsive genes to promote stress-resistance and survival, HSF-1 has recently been shown to regulate stress-independent functions in controlling development, metabolism, and longevity. However, the indirect role of HSF-1 in coordinating stress-dependent and -independent processes through post-transcriptional regulation is largely unknown. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have emerged as a class of post-transcriptional regulators that control gene expression through translational repression or mRNA degradation. To determine the role of HSF-1 in regulating miRNA expression, we have performed high-throughput small RNA-sequencing in C. elegans grown in the presence and absence of hsf-1 RNAi followed by treatment with or without heat shock. This has allowed us to uncover the miRNAs regulated by HSF-1 via heat-dependent and -independent mechanisms. Integrated miRNA/mRNA target-prediction analyses suggest HSF-1 as a post-transcriptional regulator of development, metabolism, and longevity through regulating miRNA expression. This provides new insight into the possible mechanism by which HSF-1 controls these processes. We have also uncovered oxidative stress response factors and insulin-like signaling factors as a common link between processes affected by HSF-1-regulated miRNAs in stress-dependent and -independent mechanisms, respectively. This may provide a role for miRNAs in regulating cross-talk between various stress responses. Our work therefore uncovers an interesting potential role for HSF-1 in post-transcriptionally controlling gene expression in C. elegans, and suggests a mechanism for cross-talk between stress responses.