Therapeutic potential of α-crystallin

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2016 Jan;1860(1 Pt B):252-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2015.03.012. Epub 2015 Apr 1.


Background: The findings that α-crystallins are multi-functional proteins with diverse biological functions have generated considerable interest in understanding their role in health and disease. Recent studies have shown that chaperone peptides of α-crystallin could be delivered into cultured cells and in experimental animals with beneficial effects against protein aggregation, oxidation, inflammation and apoptosis.

Scope of review: In this review, we will summarize the latest developments on the therapeutic potential of α-crystallins and their functional peptides.

Major conclusions: α-Crystallins and their functional peptides have shown significant favorable effects against several diseases. Their targeted delivery to tissues would be of great therapeutic benefit. However, α-crystallins can also function as disease-causing proteins. These seemingly contradictory functions must be carefully considered prior to their therapeutic use.

General significance: αA and αB-Crystallin are members of the small heat shock protein family. These proteins exhibit molecular chaperone and anti-apoptotic activities. The core crystallin domain within these proteins is largely responsible for these prosperities. Recent studies have identified peptides within the crystallin domain of both α- and αB-crystallins with remarkable chaperone and anti-apoptotic activities. Administration of α-crystallin or their functional peptides has shown substantial inhibition of pathologies in several diseases. However, α-crystallins have been shown to promote disease-causing pathways. These two sides of the proteins are discussed in this review. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Crystallin Biochemistry in Health and Disease.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Chaperone; Inflammation; Protein aggregation; Therapeutic potential; α-crystallin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Brain Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Eye Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Eye Diseases / pathology
  • Molecular Chaperones / therapeutic use
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / therapeutic use*
  • Protein Aggregation, Pathological / drug therapy*
  • alpha-Crystallins / chemistry*


  • Antioxidants
  • Molecular Chaperones
  • Peptides
  • alpha-Crystallins