Background: Heat shock proteins are powerful endogenous cytoprotective proteins which help cells to survive recurrent cellular stress events. Identifying the underlying molecular mechanisms and molecular targets is especially interesting since it may help to develop new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of diseases.
Objective: This review will focus on the group of small heat shock proteins, also named HspBs. HspBs play an important role in various neurological diseases. Most neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by a distinct pathology with accumulation and aggregation of misfolded proteins, such as deposits of amyloid plaques or neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer`s disease. Such pathological protein aggregates are thought to lead to cellular dysfunction and finally to cell death. HspBs display chaperone-like functions and are able to prevent protein aggregation by which they may slow down progression of these diseases. However, HspBs have multiple additional functions which also may contribute to neuroprotection.
Results/conclusions: In this review we will first give an overview of the HspB protein family, their structure, functions and expression pattern. Then we will highlight their impact in the brain, in neurodegenerative diseases and especially in Alzheimer`s disease and try to unravel their multifactorial effects in several aspects of the disease pathologies.