Objective: Adjuvant arthritis can be induced in Lewis rats by immunization with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mt). The mycobacterial 65-kd heat-shock protein (Hsp65) is targeted by arthritogenic T cells. However, Hsp65 and the mycobacterial 71-kd heat-shock protein are also recognized by T cells that can down-regulate adjuvant-induced arthritis (AIA). We have recently demonstrated that vaccination with human Hsp60 DNA inhibits AIA. The present study was undertaken to analyze the role of the T cell responses to self HSP molecules other than Hsp60 in the control of AIA.
Methods: Lewis rats were immunized with DNA vaccines coding for human Hsp70 or Hsp90 (Hsp70 plasmid [pHsp70] or pHsp90), and AIA was induced. The T cell response to Mt, Hsp60, Hsp70, and Hsp90 (proliferation and cytokine release) was studied, and the T cell response to Hsp60 was mapped with overlapping peptides.
Results: The Hsp70 or Hsp90 DNA vaccines shifted the arthritogenic T cell response from a Th1 to a Th2/3 phenotype and inhibited AIA. We detected immune crosstalk between Hsp70/90 and Hsp60: both the Hsp70 and Hsp90 DNA vaccines induced Hsp60-specific T cell responses. Similarly, DNA vaccination with Hsp60 induced Hsp70-specific T cell immunity. Epitope mapping studies revealed that Hsp60-specific T cells induced by pHsp70 vaccination reacted with known regulatory Hsp60 epitopes.
Conclusion: T cell immunity to Hsp70 and to Hsp90, like Hsp60-specific immunity, can modulate the arthritogenic response in AIA. In addition, our results suggest that the regulatory mechanisms induced by Hsp60, Hsp70, and Hsp90 are reinforced by an immune network that connects their reactivities.