Innate and adaptive immunity in atherosclerosis

Semin Immunopathol. 2009 Jun;31(1):5-22. doi: 10.1007/s00281-009-0153-8. Epub 2009 May 16.


Atherosclerosis, a chronic inflammatory disorder, involves both the innate and adaptive arms of the immune response that mediate the initiation, progression, and ultimate thrombotic complications of atherosclerosis. Most fatal thromboses, which may manifest as acute myocardial infarction or ischemic stroke, result from frank rupture or superficial erosion of the fibrous cap overlying the atheroma, processes that occur in inflammatorily active, rupture-prone plaques. Appreciation of the inflammatory character of atherosclerosis has led to the application of C-reactive protein as a biomarker of cardiovascular risk and the characterization of the anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory actions of the statin class of drugs. An improved understanding of the pathobiology of atherosclerosis and further studies of its immune mechanisms provide avenues for the development of future strategies directed toward better risk stratification of patients as well as the identification of novel anti-inflammatory therapies. This review retraces leukocyte subsets involved in innate and adaptive immunity and their contributions to atherogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / complications
  • Atherosclerosis / immunology*
  • Atherosclerosis / therapy
  • Biomarkers
  • C-Reactive Protein / immunology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Inflammation
  • Leukocytes / immunology*
  • Myocardial Infarction / etiology
  • Myocardial Infarction / immunology
  • Myocardial Infarction / therapy
  • Stroke / etiology
  • Stroke / immunology
  • Stroke / therapy
  • Thrombosis / etiology
  • Thrombosis / immunology
  • Thrombosis / therapy


  • Biomarkers
  • C-Reactive Protein