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Annu Rev Immunol. 2004;22:361-403.

Autoimmune and inflammatory mechanisms in atherosclerosis.

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1
Institute for Pathophysiology, University of Innsbruck, Medical School, Fritz-Pregl-Str. 3/IV, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria. georg.wick@uibk.ac.at

Abstract

The present review focuses on the concept that cellular and humoral immunity to the phylogenetically highly conserved antigen heat shock protein 60 (HSP60) is the initiating mechanism in the earliest stages of atherosclerosis. Subjecting arterial endothelial cells to classical atherosclerosis risk factors leads to the expression of HSP60 that then may serve as a target for pre-existent cross-reactive antimicrobial HSP60 immunity or bona fide autoimmune reactions induced by biochemically altered autologous HSP60. Endothelial cells can also bind microbial or autologous HSP60 via Toll-like receptors, providing another possibility for targetting adaptive or innate immunological effector mechanisms.

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