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Chaperones protect other proteins against misfolding and aggregation, a key requirement for maintaining biological function. Experimental observations of changes in solubility of amyloid proteins in the presence of certain chaperones are discussed here in terms of thermodynamic driving forces. We outline how chaperones can enhance amyloid solubility through the formation of heteromolecular aggregates (co-aggregates) based on the second law of thermodynamics and the flux towards equal chemical potential of each compound in all phases of the system. Higher effective solubility of an amyloid peptide in the presence of chaperone implies that the chemical potential of the peptide is higher in the aggregates formed under these conditions compared to peptide-only aggregates. This must be compensated by a larger reduction in chemical potential of the chaperone in the presence of peptide compared to chaperone alone. The driving force thus relies on the chaperone being very unhappy on its own (high chemical potential), thus gaining more free energy than the amyloid peptide loses upon forming the co-aggregate. The formation of heteromolecular aggregates also involves the kinetic suppression of the formation of homomolecular aggregates. The unhappiness of the chaperone can explain the ability of chaperones to favour an increased population of monomeric client protein even in the absence of external energy input, and with broad client specificity. This perspective opens for a new direction of chaperone research and outlines a set of outstanding questions that aim to provide additional cues for therapeutic development in this area.
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