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J Biol Chem. 2003 Aug 22;278(34):31853-60. Epub 2003 Jun 12.

GRP94/gp96 elicits ERK activation in murine macrophages. A role for endotoxin contamination in NF-kappa B activation and nitric oxide production.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


Vaccination of mice with GRP94/gp96, the endoplasmic reticulum Hsp90, elicits a variety of immune responses sufficient for tumor rejection and the suppression of metastatic tumor progression. Macrophages are a prominent GRP94/gp96 target, with GRP94/gp96 reported to activate macrophage NF-kappa B signaling and nitric oxide production, as well as the MAP kinase p38, JNK, and ERK signaling cascades. However, recent studies report that heat shock protein elicited macrophage activation is due, in large part, to contaminating endotoxin. To examine the generality of this finding, we have investigated the role of endotoxin in GRP94/gp96-elicited macrophage activation. We report that GRP94/gp96 binds endotoxin in a high-affinity, saturable, and specific manner. Low endotoxin calreticulin and GRP94/gp96 were purified, the latter using a novel method of depyrogenation; this resulted in GRP94/gp96 and calreticulin preparations with endotoxin levels substantially lower than those of previously reported preparations. Low endotoxin GRP94/gp96 retained its native conformation, ligand binding activity, and in vitro chaperone function, yet did not activate macrophage NF-kappa B signaling, nitric oxide production or inducible nitric-oxide synthase production. Low endotoxin GRP94/gp96 and calreticulin did, however, elicit a marked increase in ERK phosphorylation at protein concentrations as low as 2 microg/ml. These results are discussed with respect to current understanding of the contributions of endotoxin and heat shock/chaperone proteins to the stimulation of innate immune responses.

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