Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are molecular chaperones that bind tumor antigens and mediate their uptake into antigen presenting cells. HSP-antigen complexes are then directed toward either the MHC class I pathway through antigen cross presentation or the conventional class II pathway, leading to activation of T cell subsets. Uptake of HSP-chaperoned polypeptides can involve both receptor-mediated and receptor-independent routes, and mechanisms of antigen sorting between the Class I and II pathways after uptake are currently under investigation. The processes involved in internalization of HSP-antigen complexes differ somewhat from the mechanisms previously determined for (unchaperoned) particulate and free soluble antigens. A number of studies show that HSP-facilitated antigen cross presentation requires uptake of the complexes by scavenger receptors (SR) followed by processing in the proteasome, and loading onto MHC class I molecules. In this review we have examined the roles of HSPs and SR in antigen uptake, sorting, processing, cell signaling, and activation of innate and adaptive immunity.
Keywords: CTL response; anti-cancer vaccine; antigen cross presentation; antigen presenting cells; heat shock proteins; scavenger receptor; soluble vs. particulate antigen; tumor immunity.