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.
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