The Hsp90 complex--a super-chaperone machine as a novel drug target

Biochem Pharmacol. 1998 Sep 15;56(6):675-82. doi: 10.1016/s0006-2952(98)00120-8.


Cells respond to sudden changes in the environmental temperature with increased synthesis of a distinct number of heat shock proteins (Hsps). Analysis of the function of these proteins in recent years has shown that all the major classes of conserved Hsps are molecular chaperones involved in assisting cellular protein folding and preventing irreversible side-reactions, such as unspecific aggregation. In addition to their function under stress conditions, molecular chaperones also play a critical role under physiological conditions. Hsp90 is one of the most abundant chaperones in the cytosol of eukaryotic cells. It is part of the cell's powerful network of chaperones to fight the deleterious consequences of protein unfolding caused by nonphysiological conditions. In the absence of stress, however, Hsp90 is an obligate component of fundamental cellular processes such as hormone signaling and cell cycle control. In this context, several key regulatory proteins, such as steroid receptors, cell cycle kinases, and p53, have been identified as substrates of Hsp90. Recently, Hsp90 was shown to be the unique target for geldanamycin, a potent new anti-tumor drug that blocks cell proliferation. Interestingly, under physiological conditions, Hsp90 seems to perform its chaperone function in a complex with a set of partner proteins, suggesting that the Hsp90 complex is a multi-chaperone machine specialized in guiding the maturation of conformationally labile proteins. The regulation of key signaling molecules of the cell by the Hsp90 machinery is a stimulating new concept emerging from these studies, and Hsp90 has become a promising new drug target.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Chaperonins / drug effects*
  • Chaperonins / physiology*
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins / drug effects*
  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins / physiology*
  • Humans


  • HSP90 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Chaperonins