Many of the fatal neurodegenerative disorders that plague humankind, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, are connected with the misfolding of specific proteins into a surprisingly generic fibrous conformation termed amyloid. Prior to amyloid fiber assembly, many proteins populate a common oligomeric conformation, which may be severely cytotoxic. Therapeutic innovations are desperately sought to safely reverse this aberrant protein aggregation and return proteins to normal function. Whether mammalian cells possess any such endogenous activity remains unclear. By contrast, fungi, plants and bacteria all express Hsp104, a protein-remodeling factor, which synergizes with the Hsp70 chaperone system to resolve aggregated proteins and restore their functionality. Surprisingly, amyloids can also be adaptive. In yeast, Hsp104 directly regulates the amyloidogenesis of several prion proteins, which can confer selective advantages. Here, I review the modus operandi of Hsp104 and showcase efforts to unleash Hsp104 on the protein-misfolding events connected to disparate neurodegenerative amyloidoses.

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