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J Immunol. 1999 Mar 15;162(6):3212-9.

Human 60-kDa heat-shock protein: a danger signal to the innate immune system.

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Diabetes Research Institute, Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, Germany.


Mammalian 60-kDa heat-shock protein (hsp60) is a key target of T cell and Ab responses in chronic inflammation or atherosclerosis. We show in this study that human hsp60 is also an Ag recognized by cells of the innate immune system, such as macrophages. Both mouse and human macrophages respond to contact with exogenous human hsp60 with rapid release of TNF-alpha; mouse macrophages in addition produce nitric oxide. The proinflammatory macrophage response is hsp60 dose dependent and similar in kinetics and extent to LPS stimulation. Human hsp60 was found to synergize with IFN-gamma in its proinflammatory activity. Finally, human hsp60 induces gene expression of the Th1-promoting cytokines IL-12 and IL-15. These findings identify autologous hsp60 as a danger signal for the innate immune system, with important implications for a role of local hsp60 expression/release in chronic Th1-dependent tissue inflammation.

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