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HSP90 Shapes the Consequences of Human Genetic Variation

HSP90 acts as a protein-folding buffer that shapes the manifestations of genetic variation in model organisms. Whether HSP90 influences the consequences of mutations in humans, potentially modifying the clinical course of genetic diseases, remains unknown. By mining data for >1,500 disease-causing mutants, we found a strong correlation between reduced phenotypic severity and a dominant (HSP90 ≥ HSP70) increase in mutant engagement by HSP90. Examining the cancer predisposition syndrome Fanconi anemia in depth revealed that mutant FANCA proteins engaged predominantly by HSP70 had severely compromised function. In contrast, the function of less severe mutants was preserved by a dominant increase in HSP90 binding. Reducing HSP90's buffering capacity with inhibitors or febrile temperatures destabilized HSP90-buffered mutants, exacerbating FA-related chemosensitivities. Strikingly, a compensatory FANCA somatic mutation from an "experiment of nature" in monozygotic twins both prevented anemia and reduced HSP90 binding. These findings provide one plausible mechanism for the variable expressivity and environmental sensitivity of genetic diseases.

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