Inflammation in atherosclerosis: transition from theory to practice

Circ J. 2010 Feb;74(2):213-20. doi: 10.1253/circj.cj-09-0706. Epub 2010 Jan 9.


Inflammation drives the formation, progression, and rupture of atherosclerotic plaques. Experimental studies have demonstrated that an inflammatory subset of monocytes/macrophages preferentially accumulate in atherosclerotic plaque and produce proinflammatory cytokines. T lymphocytes can contribute to inflammatory processes that promote thrombosis by stimulating production of collagen-degrading proteinases and the potent procoagulant tissue factor. Recent data link obesity, inflammation, and modifiers of atherosclerotic events, a nexus of growing clinical concern given the worldwide increase in the prevalence of obesity. Modulators of inflammation derived from visceral adipose tissue evoke production of acute phase reactants in the liver, implicated in thrombogenesis and clot stability. Additionally, C-reactive protein levels rise with increasing levels of visceral adipose tissue. Adipose tissue in obese mice contains increased numbers of macrophages and T lymphocytes, increased T lymphocyte activation, and increased interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) expression. IFN-gamma deficiency in mice reduces production of inflammatory cytokines and inflammatory cell accumulation in adipose tissue. Another series of in vitro and in vivo mouse experiments affirmed that adiponectin, an adipocytokine, the plasma levels of which drop with obesity, acts as an endogenous antiinflammatory modulator of both innate and adaptive immunity in atherogenesis. Thus, accumulating experimental evidence supports a key role for inflammation as a link between risk factors for atherosclerosis and the biology that underlies the complications of this disease. The recent JUPITER trial supports the clinical utility of an assessment of inflammatory status in guiding intervention to limit cardiovascular events. Inflammation is thus moving from a theoretical concept to a tool that provides practical clinical utility in risk assessment and targeting of therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Adiponectin / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / immunology
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Atherosclerosis / complications
  • Atherosclerosis / drug therapy
  • Atherosclerosis / immunology*
  • Cardiovascular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / immunology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism*
  • Monocytes / immunology
  • Obesity / immunology
  • Risk Factors
  • Signal Transduction* / drug effects
  • Thrombosis / immunology
  • Translational Research, Biomedical


  • Adiponectin
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Cardiovascular Agents
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Inflammation Mediators