Heat-shock protein expression on the membrane of T cells undergoing apoptosis

F. Poccia, P. Piselli, S. Vendetti, S. Bach, A. Amendola, R. Placido, V. Colizzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Heat-shock proteins (hsp) represent a highly conserved family of proteins, normally localized in the cytoplasm and nucleus, whose expression is induced in situations involving cell stress. This paper reports the unusual translocation of hsp to the cell membrane of T cells undergoing apoptosis. We observed that glucocorticosteroid-induced thymocyte death is associated to the surface expression of hsp 60 and hsp 70 in a discrete fraction of apoptotic cells, hsp surface expression is closely related to a thymic subset of immature CD3low/- T cells. The expression of surface hsp 60 appears early after treatment with dexamethasone (3hr) whereas the membrane expression of hsp 70 follows different kinetics and peaks later. Morphological analysis of the hsp+ apoptotic cells suggest that this subset represents late-stage apoptotic cells at their minimal volume before fragmentation into apoptotic bodies. Membrane expression of hsp is also associated with apoptosis in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from AIDS patients cultured in vitro. Altogether, we show that a discrete fraction of cells undergoing apoptosis expresses membrane hsp 60 and hsp 70, supporting the hypothesis that apoptosis causes a radical alteration in the expression of cell surface molecules. Surface hsp expressed during apoptosis may constitute a novel immune-context able to generate packages of self- and exogenous antigens, originating from degradation of altered cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-12
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology


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