Stress proteins, arthritis, and autoimmunity

Arthritis Rheum. 1989 Dec;32(12):1497-504. doi: 10.1002/anr.1780321202.


Stress proteins have been highly conserved during evolution not only because of their fundamental importance in the response of the cell to stressful assaults, but also because they have critical roles in cellular activation and cell growth, regulation of protein function, protein transport, and protein assembly. Research focusing on the basic cell biology of stress proteins is intense at present, and will surely continue to be for some time to come. Of particular interest to immunologists and rheumatologists is the convergence of data in several fields that suggest that stress proteins in microorganisms that commonly infect humans may be triggers of humoral and cellular autoimmune responses and consequent overt autoimmune disease expression. Thus, stress proteins of M tuberculosis and other bacteria are close homologs of stress proteins in mammals, and may be involved in the pathogenesis of adjuvant-induced arthritis in rats and, possibly, of RA and reactive arthritis in humans. A great deal of work remains to be done in this area, including (a) generation and propagation of specifically reactive T cell clones, (b) molecular delineation of the immune recognition elements and critical epitopes shared by microbial stress proteins and host proteins, (c) definition of the relative contribution of alpha beta and gamma delta TCRs to T cell reactivity to stress proteins, and (d) clarification of the circumstances that enable persistent T cell autoreactivity to stress proteins. The data at hand are sufficiently compelling, however, to suggest that vaccination against T cells that recognize stress proteins may eventually become part of our therapeutic armamentarium to prevent or cure some forms of arthritis.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Arthritis / etiology*
  • Arthritis / immunology
  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • Autoimmunity / physiology*
  • Bacterial Proteins / immunology
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium / immunology


  • Autoantibodies
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Heat-Shock Proteins