Inhibition of Both Hsp70 Activity and Tau Aggregation in Vitro Best Predicts Tau Lowering Activity of Small Molecules

Document Type


Publication Date


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Three scaffolds with inhibitory activity against the heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) family of chaperones have been found to enhance the degradation of the microtubule associated protein tau in cells, neurons, and brain tissue. This is important because tau accumulation is linked to neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Here, we expanded upon this study to investigate the anti-tau efficacy of additional scaffolds with Hsp70 inhibitory activity. Five of the nine scaffolds tested lowered tau levels, with the rhodacyanine and phenothiazine scaffolds exhibiting the highest potency as previously described. Because phenothiazines also inhibit tau aggregation in vitro, we suspected that this activity might be a more accurate predictor of tau lowering. Interestingly, the rhodacyanines did inhibit in vitro tau aggregation to a similar degree as phenothiazines, correlating well with tau-lowering efficacy in cells and ex vivo slices. Moreover, other Hsp70 inhibitor scaffolds with weaker tau-lowering activity in cells inhibited tau aggregation in vitro, albeit at lower potencies. When we tested six well-characterized tau aggregation inhibitors, we determined that this mechanism of action was not a better predictor of tau-lowering than Hsp70 inhibition. Instead, we found that compounds possessing both activities were the most effective at promoting tau clearance. Moreover, cytotoxicity and PAINS activity are critical factors that can lead to false-positive lead identification. Strategies designed around these principles will likely yield more efficacious tau-lowering compounds.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

ACS Chemical Biology, v. 11, issue 7, p. 2041-2048