The surface-exposed chaperone, Hsp60, is an agonist of the microglial TREM2 receptor

Luisa Stefano, Gabriella Racchetti, Fabio Bianco, Nadia Passini, Radhey S. Gupta, Paola Panina Bordignon, Jacopo Meldolesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Triggering receptor expressed in myeloid (TREM) cells 2, a receptor expressed by myeloid cells, osteoclasts and microglia, is known to play a protective role in bones and brain. Mutations of the receptor (or of its coupling protein, DAP12) sustain in fact a genetic disease affecting the two organs, the polycystic lipomembraneous osteodysplasia with sclerosing leukoencephalopathy (PLOSL or Nasu-Hakola disease). So far, specific agonist(s) of TREM2 have not been identified and its (their) transduction mechanisms are largely unknown. Heat shock protein 60 (Hsp60) is a mitochondrial chaperone that can also be harboured at the cell surface. By using constructs including the extracellular domain of TREM2 and the Fc domain of IgGs we have identified Hsp60 as the only TREM2-binding protein exposed at the surface of neuroblastoma N2A cells and astrocytes, and lacking in U373 astrocytoma. Treatment with Hsp60 was found to stimulate the best known TREM2-dependent process, phagocytosis, however, only in the microglial N9 cells rich in the receptor. Upon TREM2 down-regulation, the Hsp60-induced stimulation of N9 phagocytosis was greatly attenuated. Hsp60 is also released by many cell types, segregated within exosomes or shedding vesicles which might then undergo dissolution. However, the affinity of its binding (Kd = 3.8 μM) might be too low for the soluble chaperone released from the vesicles to the extracellular space to induce a significant activation of TREM2. It might in contrast be appropriate for the binding of TREM2 to Hsp60 exposed at the surface of cells closely interacting with microglia. The ensuing stimulation of phagocytosis could play protective effects on the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-294
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009


  • Phagocytosis
  • Polycystic lipomembraneous osteodysplasia with sclerosing leukoencephalopathy
  • Receptor binding
  • Surface-harboured agonist
  • Western and far-western blotting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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