Many heat shock proteins (HSPs) are essential to survival as a consequence of their role as molecular chaperones, and play a critical role in maintaining cellular proteostasis by integrating the fundamental processes of protein folding and degradation. HSPs are arguably among the most prominent classes of proteins that have been broadly linked to many human disorders, with changes in their expression profile and/or intracellular/extracellular location now being described as contributing to the pathogenesis of a number of different diseases. Although the concept was initially controversial, it is now widely accepted that HSPs have additional biological functions over and above their role in proteostasis (so-called ‘protein moonlighting’). Most importantly, these new insights are enlightening our understanding of biological processes in health and disease, and revealing novel and exciting therapeutic opportunities. This theme issue draws on therapeutic insights from established research on HSPs in cancer and other non-communicable disorders, with an emphasis on how the intracellular function of HSPs contrasts with their extracellular properties and function, and interrogates their potential diagnostic and therapeutic value to the prevention, management and treatment of chronic diseases.


cancer, chronic disease, co-chaperones, extracellular and intracellular proteins, molecular chaperones, protein moonlighting

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