Translational reprogramming in response to accumulating stressors ensures critical threshold levels of Hsp90 for mammalian life.
The cytosolic molecular chaperone Hsp90 is essential for eukaryotic life. Although reduced Hsp90 levels correlate with aging, it was unknown whether eukaryotic cells and organisms can tune the basal Hsp90 levels to alleviate physiologically accumulated stress. We have investigated whether and how mice adapt to the deletion of three out of four alleles of the two genes encoding cytosolic Hsp90, with one Hsp90β allele being the only remaining one. While the vast majority of such mouse embryos die during gestation, survivors apparently manage to increase their Hsp90β protein to at least wild-type levels. Our studies reveal an internal ribosome entry site in the 5' untranslated region of the Hsp90β mRNA allowing translational reprogramming to compensate for the genetic loss of Hsp90 alleles and in response to stress. We find that the minimum amount of total Hsp90 required to support viability of mammalian cells and organisms is 50-70% of what is normally there. Those that fail to maintain a threshold level are subject to accelerated senescence, proteostatic collapse, and ultimately death. Therefore, considering that Hsp90 levels can be reduced ≥100-fold in the unicellular budding yeast, critical threshold levels of Hsp90 have markedly increased during eukaryotic evolution.