Heat Shock Protein 60 and Immune Inflammatory Responses in Atherosclerosis
Hallmarks of inflammation in various cardiovascular diseases, notably atherosclerosis, have been observed for a long time. However, evidence for an (auto)antigen-driven process at these sites of inflammation has come forward only recently. Heat shock proteins (HSPs) have been identified as playing either immunologically mediated disease promoting or protective roles. HSP60 has been shown to trigger innate and adaptive immune responses that initiate the earliest still reversible inflammatory stage of atherosclerosis. HSP60 is structurally highly conserved and abundantly expressed by prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells under stressful conditions. Beneficial protective immunity to microbial HSP60 acquired by infection or vaccination and bona fide autoimmunity to biochemically altered autologous HSP60 is present in all humans. In vitro and in vivo experiments have demonstrated that classical atherosclerosis risk factors can act as endothelial stressors that provoke the simultaneous expression of adhesion molecules and of HSP60 in mitochondria, in cytoplasm, and on the cell surface, where it acts as a “danger signal” for cellular and humoral immune reactions. Hence, protective, preexisting anti-HSP60 immunity may have to be “paid for” by harmful (auto)immune cross-reactive attack on arterial endothelial cells maltreated by atherosclerosis risk factors. These experimentally and clinically proven findings are the basis for the autoimmune concept of atherosclerosis.
- Received October 6, 2010.
- Accepted December 8, 2010.
- © 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.