Small heat shock proteins: multifaceted proteins with important implications for life

  • Serena CarraEmail author
  • Simon Alberti
  • Justin L. P. Benesch
  • Wilbert Boelens
  • Johannes Buchner
  • John A. Carver
  • Ciro Cecconi
  • Heath Ecroyd
  • Nikolai Gusev
  • Lawrence E. Hightower
  • Rachel E. Klevit
  • Hyun O. Lee
  • Krzysztof Liberek
  • Brent Lockwood
  • Angelo Poletti
  • Vincent Timmerman
  • Melinda E. Toth
  • Elizabeth Vierling
  • Tangchun Wu
  • Robert M. TanguayEmail author
Meeting Review


Small Heat Shock Proteins (sHSPs) evolved early in the history of life; they are present in archaea, bacteria, and eukaryota. sHSPs belong to the superfamily of molecular chaperones: they are components of the cellular protein quality control machinery and are thought to act as the first line of defense against conditions that endanger the cellular proteome. In plants, sHSPs protect cells against abiotic stresses, providing innovative targets for sustainable agricultural production. In humans, sHSPs (also known as HSPBs) are associated with the development of several neurological diseases. Thus, manipulation of sHSP expression may represent an attractive therapeutic strategy for disease treatment. Experimental evidence demonstrates that enhancing the chaperone function of sHSPs protects against age-related protein conformation diseases, which are characterized by protein aggregation. Moreover, sHSPs can promote longevity and healthy aging in vivo. In addition, sHSPs have been implicated in the prognosis of several types of cancer. Here, sHSP upregulation, by enhancing cellular health, could promote cancer development; on the other hand, their downregulation, by sensitizing cells to external stressors and chemotherapeutics, may have beneficial outcomes. The complexity and diversity of sHSP function and properties and the need to identify their specific clients, as well as their implication in human disease, have been discussed by many of the world’s experts in the sHSP field during a dedicated workshop in Québec City, Canada, on 26–29 August 2018.


Small heat shock proteins Protein quality control Human diseases Plant biology 



We are grateful to the Cell Stress Society International (CSSI) for its financial support of the workshop. We thank the Fund for Scientific Research in Flanders-Belgium (FWO) for supporting the attendance at the workshop of PhD students, Elias Adriaenssens and Leen Vendredy.


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Copyright information

© Cell Stress Society International 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Serena Carra
    • 1
    Email author
  • Simon Alberti
    • 2
    • 3
  • Justin L. P. Benesch
    • 4
  • Wilbert Boelens
    • 5
  • Johannes Buchner
    • 6
  • John A. Carver
    • 7
  • Ciro Cecconi
    • 8
    • 9
  • Heath Ecroyd
    • 10
    • 11
  • Nikolai Gusev
    • 12
  • Lawrence E. Hightower
    • 13
  • Rachel E. Klevit
    • 14
  • Hyun O. Lee
    • 15
  • Krzysztof Liberek
    • 16
  • Brent Lockwood
    • 17
  • Angelo Poletti
    • 18
  • Vincent Timmerman
    • 19
  • Melinda E. Toth
    • 20
  • Elizabeth Vierling
    • 21
  • Tangchun Wu
    • 22
  • Robert M. Tanguay
    • 23
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biomedical, Metabolic and Neural Sciences, and Centre for Neuroscience and NanotechnologyUniversity of Modena and Reggio EmiliaModenaItaly
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and GeneticsDresdenGermany
  3. 3.Center for Molecular and Cellular Bioengineering (CMCB), Biotechnology Center (BIOTEC)Technische Universität DresdenDresdenGermany
  4. 4.Department of Chemistry, Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, Chemistry Research LaboratoryUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  5. 5.Department of Biomolecular Chemistry, Institute of Molecules and MaterialsRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Center for Integrated Protein Science Munich (CIPSM) and Department ChemieTechnische Universität MünchenGarchingGermany
  7. 7.Research School of ChemistryThe Australian National UniversityActonAustralia
  8. 8.Department of Physics, Informatics and MathematicsUniversity of Modena and Reggio EmiliaModenaItaly
  9. 9.Center S3CNR Institute NanoscienceModenaItaly
  10. 10.School of Chemistry and Molecular BioscienceUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  11. 11.Illawarra Health and Medical Research InstituteWollongongAustralia
  12. 12.Department of Biochemistry, School of BiologyMoscow State UniversityMoscowRussian Federation
  13. 13.Department of Molecular and Cell BiologyUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  14. 14.Department of BiochemistryUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  15. 15.Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  16. 16.Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology UG-MUGUniversity of GdanskGdanskPoland
  17. 17.Department of BiologyUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA
  18. 18.Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Biomolecolari (DiSFeB), Centro di Eccellenza sulle Malattie NeurodegenerativeUnivrsità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly
  19. 19.Peripheral Neuropathy Research Group, Department of Biomedical SciencesUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium
  20. 20.Institute of BiochemistryBiological Research Center, Hungarian Academy of SciencesSzegedHungary
  21. 21.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular BiologyUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA
  22. 22.MOE Key Lab of Environment and Health, Tongji School of Public HealthHuazhong University of Science and TechnologyWuhanChina
  23. 23.Laboratory of Cell and Developmental Genetics, IBIS, and Department of Molecular Biology, Medical Biochemistry and Pathology, Medical SchoolUniversité LavalQCCanada

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