Staining of Endothelial Cells and Macrophages in Atherosclerotic Lesions With Human Heat-Shock Protein-Reactive Antisera

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Our previous epidemiological studies have shown that levels of serum antibodies against mycobacterial heat-shock protein (hsp) 65 correlate positively with carotid atherosclerosis in subjects aged 40 to 79 years. To determine whether these high-titer sera also react with homologous human hsp60 and/or cell components of atherosclerotic lesions, we selected 15 human sera samples, each with high or low titers to recombinant mycobacterial hsp65, and investigated their reactivity with human arterial lesion components by immunoblotting and immunofluorescence techniques. All five higher-titer sera against hsp65 reacted with a 60-kDa band of atherosclerotic lesion proteins and human recombinant hsp60 on Western blots. Pooled sera with low antibody titers to hsp65 diluted similarly as high-titer sera did not show reactivity with atherosclerotic lesion and media proteins. By immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence with human immunoglobulin G isolated from different sera, labeled with biotin, and visualized with a streptavidin conjugate, positive staining was observed in sections of fatty streaks and atherosclerotic plaques of carotid arteries, and weak staining was observed in the normal intima. Double immunofluorescence identified the majority of positively stained cells as macrophages, endothelial cells, and a few smooth muscle cells. In summary, serum antibodies against hsp65 cross-react with the human 60-kDa homologue present in high levels in atherosclerotic lesions and are mainly reacting with macrophages and endothelial cells, supporting our concept of a possible involvement of humoral-mediated immune reaction against hsp60 in atherogenesis.

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