Role of monocytes in atherogenesis

Physiol Rev. 2003 Oct;83(4):1069-112. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00005.2003.


This review focuses on the role of monocytes in the early phase of atherogenesis, before foam cell formation. An emerging consensus underscores the importance of the cellular inflammatory system in atherogenesis. Initiation of the process apparently hinges on accumulating low-density lipoproteins (LDL) undergoing oxidation and glycation, providing stimuli for the release of monocyte attracting chemokines and for the upregulation of endothelial adhesive molecules. These conditions favor monocyte transmigration to the intima, where chemically modified, aggregated, or proteoglycan- or antibody-complexed LDL may be endocytotically internalized via scavenger receptors present on the emergent macrophage surface. The differentiating monocytes in concert with T lymphocytes exert a modulating effect on lipoproteins. These events propagate a series of reactions entailing generation of lipid peroxides and expression of chemokines, adhesion molecules, cytokines, and growth factors, thereby sustaining an ongoing inflammatory process leading ultimately to lesion formation. New data emerging from studies using transgenic animals, notably mice, have provided novel insights into many of the cellular interactions and signaling mechanisms involving monocytes/macrophages in the atherogenic processes. A number of these studies, focusing on mechanisms for monocyte activation and the roles of adhesive molecules, chemokines, cytokines and growth factors, are addressed in this review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arteriosclerosis / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Monocytes / immunology*