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Atherosclerosis. 1997 Jan 3;128(1):27-38.

Macrophage-lysis mediated by autoantibodies to heat shock protein 65/60.

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Institute for Biomedical Aging Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Innsbruck, Austria.


Macrophages in atherosclerotic lesions have been shown to express high amounts of heat shock protein 60 (hsp60), a highly conserved protein. Patients with atherosclerosis have high titers of anti-hsp65/60 antibodies (Ab) recognizing macrophages in the lesions. To elucidate the role of anti-hsp65/60 Ab in macrophage cytotoxicity, human high titer serum and purified anti-hsp65/60 Ab were tested on in vitro heat-stressed cells of a human macrophage cell line (U937) and macrophages derived from peripheral blood. Application of heat stress at 42 degrees C for 30 min resulted in marked upregulation of hsp60 mRNA, followed by increased protein expression as determined by Northern blot and FACS-analysis, respectively. Compared to unstressed cells, high titer serum and anti-hsp65/60 Ab preferentially bound to the surface of stressed U937 macrophages, but not control antibodies. Furthermore, high titer serum and anti-hsp65/60 Ab exerted significant (P < 0.01) complement-mediated cytotoxicity and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) on stressed 51Cr-labelled U937 and peripheral blood derived macrophages. Thus, macrophages expressing hsp60 can be lysed by autoantibodies against hsp65/60, which may contribute to cell death in atherosclerotic plaques in vivo.

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