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Cell Stress Chaperones. 2014 May;19(3):343-53. doi: 10.1007/s12192-013-0460-9. Epub 2013 Sep 22.

Elevated blood Hsp60, its structural similarities and cross-reactivity with thyroid molecules, and its presence on the plasma membrane of oncocytes point to the chaperonin as an immunopathogenic factor in Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

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Department of Experimental Biomedicine and Clinical Neurosciences, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy.


The role Hsp60 might play in various inflammatory and autoimmune diseases is under investigation, but little information exists pertaining to Hashimoto's thyroiditis (HT). With the aim to fill this gap, in the present work, we directed our attention to Hsp60 participation in HT pathogenesis. We found Hsp60 levels increased in the blood of HT patients compared to controls. The chaperonin was immunolocalized in thyroid tissue specimens from patients with HT, both in thyrocytes and oncocytes (Hurthle cells) with higher levels compared to controls (goiter). In oncocytes, we found Hsp60 not only in the cytoplasm but also on the plasma membrane, as shown by double immunofluorescence performed on fine needle aspiration cytology. By bioinformatics, we found regions in the Hsp60 molecule with remarkable structural similarity with the thyroglobulin (TG) and thyroid peroxidase (TPO) molecules, which supports the notion that autoantibodies against TG and TPO are likely to recognize Hsp60 on the plasma membrane of oncocytes. This was also supported by data obtained by ELISA, showing that anti-TG and anti-TPO antibodies cross-react with human recombinant Hsp60. Antibody-antigen (Hsp60) reaction on the cell surface could very well mediate thyroid cell damage and destruction, perpetuating inflammation. Experiments with recombinant Hsp60 did not show stimulation of cytokine production by peripheral blood mononuclear cells from HT patients. All together, these results led us to hypothesize that Hsp60 may be an active player in HT pathogenesis via an antibody-mediated immune mechanism.

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