3D Illustration: Hsp90 Cellular Landscape

Background Information

Hsp90 is a 90kDa heat-shock protein that is involved in the stress response of the body as well as normal homeostasis mechanisms. It is one of the most abundant cellular proteins and its processes involve contact with protein kinases, transcription factors, and other proteins to stabilize and activate them, or send them off for proteasomal degradation. To date, Hsp90 has been observed in complexes with over 100 different substrate proteins either in the cytoplasm or nucleus. It can impact signal transduction, chromatin remodeling and regulation, development, and morphological evolution. In its mechanism-of-action, it functions as a dimer driven by ATP binding and hydrolysis at the N-terminus. Hsp90 has also been implicated in protein folding and quality control within the crowded environment of the cell. 

Hsp90's localization in the cell is mostly cytoplasmic, although some Hsp90 proteins have been observed in the nucleus as well. These proteins accumulate near the nucleus when the cell is under heat stress. It is associated with lysosomal membranes and can bind to the nuclear envelope of permeabilized cells. Hsp90 has also been identified within the rough endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria, however its presence in mitochondria mostly occurs within tumor cells.

final illustration

Project Goals

The main objective of this project was to depict Hsp90's localization within the cell. We chose to focus on its cytosolic localization while also implying its relationship to the nucleus. In addition to the illustration, a short animation was created as a brief glimpse flying through the scene.


Due to the abundance of Hsp90 in the cell as well as the crowdedness of the cellular environment, one of the main challenges was to choose which story to tell and focus on it. Since it is found most abundantly in the cytoplasm, we focused on that story while also having the nucleus and rough ER in the background to show Hsp90's relation to those organelles. Accurately illustrating the vast difference in scale between Hsp90 and the nucleus was also a challenge since we wanted the nucleus to be identifiable but also did not want Hsp90 to be lost in comparison. To help focus the story, we decided to intentionally exclude other proteins that would be present in the cell's crowded environment. Progress will continue to be made, particularly in the color, lighting, and background, to tell a clear story for Hsp90.



Date Started: 04/02/2015
Date Completed: 05/05/2015
Audience: Scientific community
Materials: Autodesk 3ds Max, Adobe After Effects
Final Deliverable: HDTV 1920 x 1080 pixel illustration and animation




First Work-in-progress

layout thumbnails drafted during brainstorming stages of this project