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J Neuroimmunol. 1996 Apr;65(2):143-53.

The immune response to mycobacterial 70-kDa heat shock proteins frequently involves autoreactive T cells and is quantitatively disregulated in multiple sclerosis.

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Department of Neurological Sciences, Università La Sapienza, v. le dell'Università, Rome, Italy.


Heat shock proteins (HSP) are the most conserved molecules known to date that may also function as immune targets during infection. Hence, theoretically there is a high chance of cross-reactive responses to epitopes shared by host and microbe HSP. If not properly regulated, these responses may contribute to the pathogenesis of autoimmune disease. To determine if immune responses to HSP could contribute to the pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis, we raised T lymphocyte lines specific for the purified protein derivative of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (PPD) from patients with multiple sclerosis, patients with tuberculosis and from healthy individuals. These lines were then screened for their proliferative response to a M. tuberculosis 70-kDa heat shock protein (M.tb.HSP70). The relative frequency of the recognition of highly conserved sequences of M.tb.HSP70 compared to variable ones was also assessed by mapping experiments on those PPD specific T lymphocyte lines which also recognized the mycobacterial 70-kDa heat shock protein. In patients with multiple sclerosis, we observed a significantly higher estimated frequency of PPD-specific T lines responding to M.tb.HSP70 compared to healthy individuals and patients with tuberculosis. Furthermore, mapping experiments using recombinant proteins representing mycobacterial and human HSP70 sequences and a panel of synthetic peptides encompassing the whole sequence of Mycobacterium leprae HSP70, showed that the response to conserved epitopes of HSP70 is a frequent event in each of the three conditions studied, often leading to the cross-recognition of microbial and human sequences. These findings implicate the 70-kDa heat shock proteins as potential autoantigens in multiple sclerosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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