High-density lipoprotein-associated apolipoprotein A-I: the missing link between infection and chronic inflammation?

Autoimmun Rev. 2002 Feb;1(1-2):111-7. doi: 10.1016/s1568-9972(01)00018-0.


The etiology of chronic immuno-inflammatory diseases including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), multiple sclerosis (MS), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and atherosclerosis is far from being elucidated. It is generally accepted that multiple factors are involved in the development of such pathologies, including factors of genetic susceptibility that interact in complex ways with diverse environmental factors, i.e. gender, nutrition, environment, etc. Furthermore, infection has often been pinpointed as playing a causal role. However, no distinctive pattern has yet emerged from the tremendous number of compiled results that would provide a generally acceptable hypothesis of the etiology of immuno-inflammatory diseases, and the possibility of a persistent antigenic stimulus arising from an infection cannot be confirmed or refuted. At the cellular level, chronic inflammation is characterized by the infiltration of immuno-inflammatory cells into the target tissue, which mostly precedes tissue damage. At the inflammatory site, monocytes and T lymphocytes are in close proximity. We have demonstrated that contact-mediated activation of monocytes by stimulated T lymphocytes is a major stimulus triggering the production of large amounts of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) whose importance in chronic inflammation is well known. We recently established that high-density lipolipoprotein (HDL)-associated apolipoprotein (apo) A-I is a specific inhibitor of cytokine production in monocyte-macrophages upon contact with stimulated T cells. HDL-associated apo A-I is a negative acute-phase protein, i.e. a protein whose level is lowered by more than 25% during the acute phase. This review aims at highlighting the fact that HDL-associated apo A-I might play the role of a constitutive anti-inflammatory factor. The decrease of plasma levels of HDL-associated apo A-I upon acute inflammation may be a sign of the possible development of chronic inflammation, i.e. individuals presenting with risk factors might develop chronic inflammatory diseases after infection. We thus hypothesize that HDL-associated apo A-I might be the missing link between infection and chronic inflammation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute-Phase Reaction / etiology
  • Animals
  • Apolipoprotein A-I / metabolism*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Infections / immunology*
  • Infections / metabolism
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-1 / biosynthesis
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Macrophage Activation
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Models, Biological
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / biosynthesis


  • Apolipoprotein A-I
  • Interleukin-1
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha