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heat-shock proteins A range of peptides that are well conserved throughout a wide range of organisms and are produced by the body in response to various stressors. They are found in high concentration in plaques of ATHEROSCLEROSIS and levels of heat-shock proteins in people who have suffered strokes and heart attacks, and women with breast cancer, are higher than in controls. Antibodies against bacterial HSP can cross-react with human HSP60 causing cytotoxic damage to endothelial cells stressed by FREE RADICALS or infection. Heat-shock proteins are also associated with oral ulcers and Behçet's disease. They are found in a variety of bacteria.