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Int Immunol. 1989;1(2):191-6.

Stress proteins may provide a link between the immune response to infection and autoimmunity.

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


Stress proteins are frequently the target of humoral and cell-mediated immune responses to infection. These proteins belong to highly conserved gene families and there is substantial sequence homology between antigens produced by pathogenic organisms and the corresponding proteins from mammalian cells. Human T cells from sites of infectious and autoimmune lesions proliferate in response to stress proteins, and mapping of antigenic determinants on a mycobacterial stress protein shows that both species specific and highly conserved, 'self-like', regions of the molecule can take part in immune recognition. It is proposed that the lymphocyte population induced in response to stress proteins of pathogens during infection includes cells capable of autoimmune recognition of the corresponding self protein. Local accumulation of self stress proteins--in response to viral infection, for example--may subsequently provide a stimulus for proliferation of such autoreactive lymphocytes, thereby triggering a cycle of events which may contribute to the pathological damage associated with autoimmune disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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