Heat-shock proteins have been shown to be critical antigens in a number of autoimmune diseases. In human arthritis and in experimentally induced arthritis in animals, disease development was seen to coincide with development of immune reactivity directed against not only bacterial hsp60, but also against its mammalian homologue. We have developed murine monoclonal antibodies after immunization with recombinant human hsp60. Antibodies with unique specificity for mammalian hsp60, not crossreactive with the bacterial counterpart (LK1), and antibodies recognizing both human and bacterial hsp60 (LK2) were selected. Both antibodies recognize epitopes located between amino acid positions 383 and 447 of human hsp60. In immunogold electron microscopy, the mitochondrial localization of hsp60 in HepG2 cells was shown. Furthermore, both LK1 and LK2 showed a raised level of staining in light microscopy immunohistochemistry of synovial membranes in patients with juvenile chronic arthritis. The increased staining for LK1, with a unique specificity for mammalian hsp60, thus unequivocally demonstrates that this is due to a raised level of expression of endogenously produced host hsp60 and not to deposition of bacterial antigens.

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