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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2004 Apr;286(4):C739-44.

Cytokine function of heat shock proteins.

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Research Service, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Washington, DC 20422, USA.


Extensive work in the last 10 years has suggested that heat shock proteins (HSPs) may be potent activators of the innate immune system. It has been reported that Hsp60, Hsp70, Hsp90, and gp96 are capable of inducing the production of proinflammatory cytokines by the monocyte-macrophage system and the activation and maturation of dendritic cells (antigen-presenting cells) in a manner similar to the effects of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and bacterial lipoprotein, e.g., via CD14/Toll-like receptor2 (TLR2) and CD14/TLR4 receptor complex-mediated signal transduction pathways. However, recent evidence suggests that the reported cytokine effects of HSPs may be due to the contaminating LPS and LPS-associated molecules. The reasons for previous failure to recognize the contaminant(s) as being responsible for the reported HSP cytokine effects include failure to use highly purified, low-LPS preparations of HSPs; failure to recognize the heat sensitivity of LPS; and failure to consider contaminant(s) other than LPS. Thus it is essential that efforts should be directed to conclusively determine whether the reported HSP cytokine effects are due to HSPs or to contaminant(s) present in the HSP preparations before further exploring the implication and therapeutic potential of the putative cytokine function of HSPs.

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