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J Leukoc Biol. 2010 Sep;88(3):445-62. doi: 10.1189/jlb.1209779. Epub 2010 May 5.

Molecular chaperones and protein-folding catalysts as intercellular signaling regulators in immunity and inflammation.

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Department of Microbial Diseases, UCL-Eastman Dental Institute, University College London, 256 Gray's Inn Rd., London, WC1X 8LD, UK.


This review critically examines the hypothesis that molecular chaperones and protein-folding catalysts from prokaryotes and eukaryotes can be secreted by cells and function as intercellular signals, principally but not exclusively, for leukocytes. A growing number of molecular chaperones have been reported to function as ligands for selected receptors and/or receptors for specific ligands. Molecular chaperones initially appeared to act primarily as stimulatory signals for leukocytes and thus, were seen as proinflammatory mediators. However, evidence is now emerging that molecular chaperones can have anti-inflammatory actions or, depending on the protein and concentration, anti- and proinflammatory functions. Recasting the original hypothesis, we propose that molecular chaperones and protein-folding catalysts are "moonlighting" proteins that function as homeostatic immune regulators but may also under certain circumstances, contribute to tissue pathology. One of the key issues in the field of molecular chaperone biology relates to the role of microbial contaminants in their signaling activity; this too will be evaluated critically. The most fascinating aspect of molecular chaperones probably relates to evidence for their therapeutic potential in human disease, and ongoing studies are evaluating this potential in a range of clinical settings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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