Challenging Proteostasis: Role of the Chaperone Network to Control Aggregation-Prone Proteins in Human Disease

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020;1243:53-68. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-40204-4_4.


Protein homeostasis (Proteostasis) is essential for correct and efficient protein function within the living cell. Among the critical components of the Proteostasis Network (PN) are molecular chaperones that serve widely in protein biogenesis under physiological conditions, and prevent protein misfolding and aggregation enhanced by conditions of cellular stress. For Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's diseases and ALS, multiple classes of molecular chaperones interact with the highly aggregation-prone proteins amyloid-β, tau, α-synuclein, huntingtin and SOD1 to influence the course of proteotoxicity associated with these neurodegenerative diseases. Accordingly, overexpression of molecular chaperones and induction of the heat shock response have been shown to be protective in a wide range of animal models of these diseases. In contrast, for cancer cells the upregulation of chaperones has the undesirable effect of promoting cellular survival and tumor growth by stabilizing mutant oncoproteins. In both situations, physiological levels of molecular chaperones eventually become functionally compromised by the persistence of misfolded substrates, leading to a decline in global protein homeostasis and the dysregulation of diverse cellular pathways. The phenomenon of chaperone competition may underlie the broad pathology observed in aging and neurodegenerative diseases, and restoration of physiological protein homeostasis may be a suitable therapeutic avenue for neurodegeneration as well as for cancer.

Keywords: Molecular chaperones; Neurodegenerative diseases; Protein misfolding; Proteostasis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Molecular Chaperones / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / prevention & control
  • Protein Aggregation, Pathological / prevention & control*
  • Proteostasis*


  • Molecular Chaperones