SSE1 and SSE2 encode the essential yeast members of the Hsp70-related Hsp110 molecular chaperone family. Both mammalian Hsp110 and the Sse proteins functionally interact with cognate cytosolic Hsp70s as nucleotide exchange factors. We demonstrate here that Sse1 forms high-affinity (Kd ∼ 10-8 M) heterodimeric complexes with both yeast Ssa and mammalian Hsp70 chaperones and that binding of ATP to Sse1 is required for binding to Hsp70s. Sse1-Hsp70 heterodimerization confers resistance to exogenously added protease, indicative of conformational changes in Sse1 resulting in a more compact structure. The nucleotide binding domains of both Sse1/2 and the Hsp70s dictate interaction specificity and are sufficient for mediating heterodimerization with no discernible contribution from the peptide binding domains. In support of a strongly conserved functional interaction between Hsp110 and Hsp70, Sse1 is shown to associate with and promote nucleotide exchange on human Hsp70. Nucleotide exchange activity by Sse1 is physiologically significant, as deletion of both SSE1 and the Ssa ATPase stimulatory protein YDJ1 is synthetically lethal. The Hsp110 family must therefore be considered an essential component of Hsp70 chaperone biology in the eukaryotic cell.
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