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Cell Stress Chaperones. Sep 1998; 3(3): 161–167.
PMCID: PMC312960

Presence of antibodies to heat stress proteins in workers exposed to benzene and in patients with benzene poisoning

Abstract

Heat shock or stress proteins (Hsps) are a group of proteins induced by a large number of xenobiotics, many of which are common in the working and living environment. The biological significance of the presence of antibodies against Hsps in humans is presently unknown. In the present study, 112 workers were selected and divided into four groups on the basis of their level of occupational exposure to benzene: a control group, two groups of workers exposed to either low (< 300 mg/m3) or high concentrations of benzene (> 300 mg/m3) and a group of workers who had experienced benzene poisoning. Blood samples from these workers were assayed for the number of peripheral white blood cells, concentration of hemoglobin, activities of serum superoxide dismutase (SOD), lymphocyte DNA damage and finally for the presence of antibodies to different human heat-shock proteins (Hsp27, Hsp60, Hsp71 and Hsp90). Benzene-poisoned workers showed a high incidence of antibodies against Hsp71 (~ 40%) which was associated with a decrease in white blood cells (3.84 ± 1.13 × 109 versus 7.68 ± 1.84 × 109 in controls) and with an increase in activities of serum SOD (138.43 ± 23.15 μ/ml) and Iymphocyte DNA damage (18.7%). These data suggest that antibodies against Hsps can potentially be useful biomonitors to assess if workers are experiencing or have experienced abnormal xenobiotic-induced stress within their living and working environment.

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