a1 Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Purdue University, 575 Stadium Mall Drive, RHPH 410A, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA. Tel: +1 765 494 1413; Fax: +1 765 494 1414; E-mail: [email protected]
Most proteins in the cell adopt a compact, globular fold that determines their stability and function. Partial protein unfolding under conditions of cellular stress results in the exposure of hydrophobic regions normally buried in the interior of the native structure. Interactions involving the exposed hydrophobic surfaces of misfolded protein conformers lead to the formation of toxic aggregates, including oligomers, protofibrils and amyloid fibrils. A significant number of human disorders (e.g. Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, Huntington disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and type II diabetes) are characterised by protein misfolding and aggregation. Over the past five years, outstanding progress has been made in the development of therapeutic strategies targeting these diseases. Three promising approaches include: (1) inhibiting protein aggregation with peptides or small molecules identified via structure-based drug design or high-throughput screening; (2) interfering with post-translational modifications that stimulate protein misfolding and aggregation; and (3) upregulating molecular chaperones or aggregate-clearance mechanisms. Ultimately, drug combinations that capitalise on more than one therapeutic strategy will constitute the most effective treatment for patients with these devastating illnesses.