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Keywords:

  • antibody responses;
  • atherosclerosis;
  • heat shock proteins;
  • molecular mimicry;
  • periodontal immunology

Background/aims:  Chronic infections such as those caused by Chlamydia pneumoniae and periodontopathic bacteria such as Porphyromonas gingivalis have been associated with atherosclerosis, possibly due to cross-reactivity of the immune response to bacterial GroEL with human heat shock protein (hHSP) 60.

Methods:  We examined the cross-reactivity of anti-GroEL and anti-P. gingivalis antibodies with hHSP60 in atherosclerosis patients and quantified a panel of six pathogens in atheromas.

Results:  After absorption of plasma samples with hHSP60, there were variable reductions in the levels of anti-GroEL and anti-P. gingivalis antibodies, suggesting that these antibodies cross-reacted with hHSP60. All of the artery specimens were positive for P. gingivalis. Fusobacterium nucleatum, Tannerella forsythia, C. pneumoniae, Helicobacter pylori, and Haemophilus influenzae were found in 84%, 48%, 28%, 4%, and 4% of arteries, respectively. The prevalence of the three periodontopathic microorganisms, P. gingivalis, F. nucleatum and T. forsythia, was significantly higher than that of the remaining three microorganisms.

Conclusions:  These results support the hypothesis that in some patients, cross-reactivity of the immune response to bacterial HSPs including those of periodontal pathogens, with arterial endothelial cells expressing hHSP60 may be a possible mechanism for the association between atherosclerosis and periodontal infection.