Heat shock proteins (HSPs) play an essential role in protecting proteins from denaturation and are implicated in diverse pathophysiological conditions like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, infections, and neurodegenerative diseases. Scientific evidence indicates that if HSP expression falls below a certain level, cells become sensitive to oxidative damage that accelerates protein aggregation diseases. On the other hand, persistently enhanced levels of HSP can lead to inflammatory and oncogenic changes. To date, although techniques for measuring HSPs exist, these assays are limited for use in specific sample types or are time consuming. Therefore, in the present study, we developed a single‐molecule assay digital ELISA technology (Single Molecule Array— SIMOA) for the measurement of HSPs, which is time effective and can be adapted to measure multiple analytes simultaneously from a single sample. This technique combines two distinct HSPspecific antibodies that recognize different epitopes on the HSP molecule. A recombinant human HSP protein was used as the standard material. The assay performance characteristics were evaluated by repeated testing of samples spiked with HSP peptide at different levels. The limit of detection was 0.16 and 2 ng/mL for HSP27 and HSP70, respectively. The inter‐ and intra‐assay coefficients of variation were less than 20% in all tested conditions for both HSPs. The HSP levels assayed after serial dilution of samples portrayed dilutional linearity (on average 109%, R 2 = 0.998, p < 0.001, for HSP27 and 93%, R 2 = 0.994, p < 0.001, for HSP70). A high linear response was also demonstrated with admixtures of plasma exhibiting relatively very low and high levels of HSP70 (R 2 = 0.982, p < 0.001). Analyte spike recovery varied between 57% and 95%. Moreover, the relative HSP values obtained using Western blotting correlated significantly with HSP values obtained with the newly developed SIMOA assay (r = 0.815, p < 0.001 and r = 0,895, p < 0.001 for HSP70 and HSP27, respectively), indicating that our method is reliable. In conclusion, the assay demonstrates analytical performance for the accurate assessment of HSPs in various sample types and offers the advantage of a huge range of dilution linearity, indicating that samples with HSP concentration highly above the calibration range can be diluted into range without affecting the precision of the assay.

Original languageEnglish
Article number863
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by the Wetenschappelijk Fonds Willy Gepts of the Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel.

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Wetenschappelijk Fonds Willy Gepts of the Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel. Acknowledgments: The authors thank the employees of the laboratory of Clinical Chemistry and Radiology of the Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel, for their cooperation in facilitating the realization of the experiments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • cell lysates
  • heat shock proteins
  • plasma
  • single molecule assay


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