The small heat shock proteins, especially HspB4 and HspB5 are promising protectants in neurodegenerative diseases

Neurochem Int. 2018 May;115:69-79. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2018.02.006. Epub 2018 Feb 7.


Small heat shock proteins (sHsps) are a group of proteins with molecular mass between 12 and 43 kDa. Currently, 11 members of this family have been classified, namely HspB1 to HspB11. HspB1, HspB2, HspB5, HspB6, HspB7, and HspB8, which are expressed in brain have been observed to be related to the pathology of neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Alexander's disease, multiple sclerosis, and human immunodeficiency virus-associated dementia. Specifically, sHsps interact with misfolding and damaging protein aggregates, like Glial fibrillary acidic protein in AxD, β-amyloid peptides aggregates in Alzheimer's disease, Superoxide dismutase 1 in Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and cytosine-adenine-guanine/polyglutamine (CAG/PolyQ) in Huntington's disease, Spinocerebellar ataxia type 3, Spinal-bulbar muscular atrophy, to reduce the toxicity or increase the clearance of these protein aggregates. The degree of HspB4 expression in brain is still debated. For neuroprotective mechanisms, sHsps attenuate mitochondrial dysfunctions, reduce accumulation of misfolded proteins, block oxidative/nitrosative stress, and minimize neuronal apoptosis and neuroinflammation, which are molecular mechanisms commonly accepted to mirror the progression and development of neurodegenerative diseases. The increasing incidence of the neurodegenerative diseases enhanced search for effective approaches to rescue neural tissue from degeneration with minimal side effects. sHsps have been found to exert neuroprotective functions. HspB5 has been emphasized to reduce the paralysis in a mouse model of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, providing a therapeutic basis for the disease. In this review, we discuss the current understanding of the properties and the mechanisms of protection orchestrated by sHsps in the nervous system, highlighting the promising therapeutic role of sHsps in neurodegenerative diseases.

Keywords: Gene regulation; Neurodegenerative diseases; Neuroprotection; α-Crystallins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • HSP27 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / drug effects*
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Heat-Shock Proteins, Small / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Peptides / pharmacology
  • alpha-Crystallin B Chain / genetics*


  • CRYAB protein, human
  • Cryab protein, mouse
  • HSP27 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • HSPB2 protein, human
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Heat-Shock Proteins, Small
  • Peptides
  • alpha-Crystallin B Chain
  • polyglutamine