Adventitial infiltrates associated with advanced atherosclerotic plaques: structural organization suggests generation of local humoral immune responses

J Pathol. 2001 Feb;193(2):263-9. doi: 10.1002/1096-9896(2000)9999:9999<::AID-PATH774>3.0.CO;2-N.


Advanced atherosclerotic lesions often contain adventitial lymphoid infiltrates, which occasionally contain nodular aggregates resembling lymphoid follicles. The structural organization suggests that local maturation of B cells may take place at these sites, as described for the mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT). This concept was evaluated by studying the micro-anatomy and cellular composition of adventitial infiltrates associated with advanced atherosclerosis of the aorta. Sections of 22 atherosclerotic aortas were stained immunohistochemically for cellular markers characteristic for lymphoid follicles, such as HECA-452-positive endothelial cells, CD20-positive B cells, CD21-positive follicular dendritic cells, and CD68-positive macrophages. Ki-67 was used as a proliferation marker. The TUNEL technique was used to study the presence of apoptotic cells. Specimens containing MALT served as comparison and positive controls. Seven of the 22 atherosclerotic aortas contained adventitial infiltrates resembling lymphoid follicles. The organized nodular centres were composed of CD45RA+ B cells, follicular dendritic cells (CD21+), a few T lymphocytes (CD3+) and 'tingible body' macrophages (CD68+). A large number of cells were Ki-67-positive; apoptotic bodies were numerous and phagocytosed by macrophages. The parafollicular area contained CD45RO-positive T cells and HECA-452-positive vessels. Vessels elsewhere were always HECA-452-negative. Specimens with MALT showed similar features. This study reveals a close resemblance between adventitial lymphoid infiltrates in advanced atherosclerotic aortic disease and MALT, suggesting local generation of a humoral immune response, likely to be initiated by antigens released during a process of long-standing tissue injury and inflammation as part of advanced atherosclerosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibody Formation
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Arteriosclerosis / metabolism*
  • Arteriosclerosis / pathology
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Ki-67 Antigen / metabolism
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens / metabolism
  • Macrophages / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism


  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens