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Pharmacologic activation of stress-responsive signaling pathways provides a promising approach for ameliorating imbalances in proteostasis associated with diverse diseases. However, this approach has not been employed in vivo. Here we show, using a mouse model of myocardial ischemia/reperfusion, that selective pharmacologic activation of the ATF6 arm of the unfolded protein response (UPR) during reperfusion, a typical clinical intervention point after myocardial infarction, transcriptionally reprograms proteostasis, ameliorates damage and preserves heart function. These effects were lost upon cardiac myocyte-specific Atf6 deletion in the heart, demonstrating the critical role played by ATF6 in mediating pharmacologically activated proteostasis-based protection of the heart. Pharmacological activation of ATF6 is also protective in renal and cerebral ischemia/reperfusion models, demonstrating its widespread utility. Thus, pharmacologic activation of ATF6 represents a proteostasis-based therapeutic strategy for ameliorating ischemia/reperfusion damage, underscoring its unique translational potential for treating a wide range of pathologies caused by imbalanced proteostasis.