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Microbes Infect. 2006 Jun;8(7):1859-65. Epub 2006 May 3.

Human heat shock protein 60 stimulates vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation through Toll-like receptors 2 and 4.

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Department of Radiology, Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht, University Hospital Maastricht, P. Debyelaan 25, 6202 AZ, Maastricht, The Netherlands.


Heat shock proteins (HSPs) of endogenous and exogenous origin are suspected contributors to the initiation and aggravation of vascular pathologies like atherosclerosis and restenosis. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) 2 and 4 are well-known receptors for exogenous pathogen-associated molecular patterns and have recently been thought to play a role in HSP60-induced cellular activation. We hypothesized that human HSP60 directly stimulates venous smooth muscle cell (VSMC) proliferation through a TLR-dependent mechanism. Localization of HSP60, TLR2 and TLR4 was studied in failed venous grafts and normal venous tissue by double immunostaining. In vitro VSMCs were incubated for 48 h with recombinant human HSP60. In other experiments, VSMCs were pre-incubated for 30 min with specific anti-TLR2 and anti-TLR4 antibodies. VSMC proliferation was determined by Ki67 immunoreactivity, and mean values were compared between experimental and control groups. In addition, human embryonic kidney (HEK) cells transfected with human TLR2 or TLR4/MD-2 were exposed to HSP60 for 48 h, and proliferation was determined by using a hemocytometer. Co-localization of HSP60 and TLRs was detected in all neointimal lesions but was virtually absent in normal veins. Human HSP60 stimulated VSMC proliferation in a concentration-dependent fashion. In addition, TLR2 and TLR4 antibodies attenuated VSMC proliferation. The role of TLR-mediated stimulation of cell proliferation by HSP60 was supported by the significant increase in proliferation of transfected HEK cells. These findings provide supporting evidence for the role of HSP60 and TLR2 and TLR4 in vascular disease. Moreover, our data surpass the infection- and autoimmunity-based hypotheses of cardiovascular disease and suggest an additional HSP60-related autocrine process.

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