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Clin Exp Immunol. 1992 Aug;89(2):305-9.

Disease association of antibodies to human and mycobacterial hsp70 and hsp60 stress proteins.

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MRC Tuberculosis and Related Infections Unit, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, London, UK.


Structural homology between microbial and human stress proteins has been postulated to be a basis for autoimmunization in chronic inflammatory diseases. Therefore, we estimated by ELISA titration the antibody levels to mycobacterial (M) and human (H) recombinant hsp70 and M-hsp65 heat-shock proteins in sera of patients with Crohn's disease (n = 29), ulcerative colitis (n = 20) and nontuberculous mycobacterial disease of the lungs (n = 20). Antibodies to H-hsp60, separated by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis, were tested in six sera of each group of patients. In Crohn's disease, antibody titres to the M-hsp65 antigen without detectable H-hsp60 binding were significantly elevated in 52% of the patients. In contrast titres to both M-hsp70 and H-hsp70 were demonstrable and correlated, but increased over control values only in four (14%) patients. The antibody pattern in ulcerative colitis was found to be quite different: anti-H-hsp60 binding was demonstrable in most patients, although anti-M-hsp65 titres were not elevated. Furthermore, 25% of patients had significantly elevated titres to M-hsp70, but not to H-hsp70. In non-tuberculous mycobacterial pulmonary disease, about 50% of patients had elevated titres to both hsp65 and hsp71 mycobacterial antigens but not to the corresponding human proteins; patients with Mycobacterium xenopi infection had the highest titres in this group. These results demonstrate the existence of distinct disease-associated patterns in the human antibody response to stress protein antigens. However, these data are not sufficient to imply sensitization with mycobacteria in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, since certain epitopes of heat-shock proteins are shared by several bacterial genera.

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