CD4+CD25+ Tregs regulate immunity, but little is known about their own regulation. We now report that the human 60-kDa heat shock protein (HSP60) acts as a costimulator of human Tregs, both CD4+CD25int and CD4+CD25hi. Treatment of Tregs with HSP60, or its peptide p277, before anti-CD3 activation significantly enhanced the ability of relatively low concentrations of the Tregs to downregulate CD4+CD25– or CD8+ target T cells, detected as inhibition of target T cell proliferation and IFN-γ and TNF-α secretion. The enhancing effects of HSP60 costimulation on Tregs involved innate signaling via TLR2, led to activation of PKC, PI3K, and p38, and were further enhanced by inhibition of ERK. HSP60-treated Tregs suppressed target T cells both by cell-to-cell contact and by secretion of TGF-β and IL-10. In addition, the expression of ERK, NF-κB, and T-bet by downregulated target T cells was inhibited. Thus, HSP60, a self-molecule, can downregulate adaptive immune responses by upregulating Tregs innately through TLR2 signaling.


Alexandra Zanin-Zhorov, Liora Cahalon, Guy Tal, Raanan Margalit, Ofer Lider, Irun R. Cohen


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