Small molecule enhancers of autophagy for neurodegenerative diseases

Mol Biosyst. 2008 Sep;4(9):895-901. doi: 10.1039/b804606a. Epub 2008 Jul 4.


Neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, prion diseases and polyglutamine disorders, including Huntington's disease and various spinocerebellar ataxias, are associated with the formation of protein aggregates. These aggregates and/or their precursors are thought to be toxic disease-causing species. Autophagy is a major degradation pathway for intracytosolic aggregate-prone proteins, including those associated with neurodegeneration. It is a constitutive self-degradative process involved both in the basal turnover of cellular components and in response to nutrient starvation in eukaryotes. Enhancing autophagy may be a possible therapeutic strategy for neurodegenerative disorders where the mutant proteins are autophagy substrates. In cell and animal models, chemical induction of autophagy protects against the toxic insults of these mutant aggregate-prone proteins by enhancing their clearance. We will discuss various autophagy-inducing small molecules that have emerged in the past few years that may be leads towards the treatment of such devastating diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy / physiology*
  • Inositol / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / therapy
  • Protein Folding
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Sirolimus / metabolism
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Trehalose / metabolism


  • Proteins
  • Inositol
  • Trehalose
  • Protein Kinases
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Sirolimus