Most of the members of the superfamily of mammalian small heat shock or stress proteins are abundant in muscles where they play a role in muscle function and maintenance of muscle integrity. One member of this protein superfamily, human HSP27, is rapidly phosphorylated on three serine residues (Ser(15), Ser(78), and Ser(82)) during cellular response to a number of extracellular factors. To understand better the role of HSP27, we performed a yeast two-hybrid screen of a human heart cDNA library for HSP27-interacting proteins. By using the triple aspartate mutant, a mimic of phosphorylated HSP27, as "bait" construct, a protein with a molecular mass of 21.6 kDa was identified as an HSP27-binding protein. Sequence analysis revealed that this new protein shares an overall sequence identity of 33% with human HSP27. This protein also contains the alpha-crystallin domain in its C-terminal half, a hallmark of the superfamily of small stress proteins. Thus, the new protein itself is a member of this protein superfamily, and consequently we designated it HSP22. According to the two-hybrid data, HSP22 interacts preferentially with the triple aspartate form of HSP27 as compared with wild-type HSP27. HSP22 is expressed predominantly in muscles. In vitro, HSP22 is phosphorylated by protein kinase C (at residues Ser(14) and Thr(63)) and by p44 mitogen-activated protein kinase (at residues Ser(27) and Thr(87)) but not by MAPKAPK-2.
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