Effector Memory T cells Are Associated With Atherosclerosis in Humans and Animal Models

J Am Heart Assoc. 2012 Feb;1(1):27-41. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.111.000125. Epub 2012 Feb 20.


BACKGROUND#ENTITYSTARTX02014;: Adaptive T-cell response is promoted during atherogenesis and results in the differentiation of naïve CD4(+)T cells to effector and/or memory cells of specialized T-cell subsets. Aim of this work was to investigate the relationship between circulating CD4(+)T-cell subsets and atherosclerosis. METHODS AND RESULTS#ENTITYSTARTX02014;: We analyzed 57 subsets of circulating CD4(+)T cells by 10-parameter/8-color polychromatic flow cytometry (markers: CD3/CD4/CD45RO/CD45RA/CCR7/CCR5/CXCR3/HLA-DR) in peripheral blood from 313 subjects derived from 2 independent cohorts. In the first cohort of subjects from a free-living population (n=183), effector memory T cells (T(EM): CD3(+)CD4(+)CD45RA(-)CD45RO(+)CCR7(-) cells) were strongly related with intima-media thickness of the common carotid artery, even after adjustment for age (r=0.27; P<0.001). Of note, a significant correlation between T(EM) and low-density lipoproteins was observed. In the second cohort (n=130), T(EM) levels were significantly increased in patients with chronic stable angina or acute myocardial infarction compared with controls. HLA-DR(+)T(EM) were the T(EM) subpopulation with the strongest association with the atherosclerotic process (r=0.37; P<0.01). Finally, in animal models of atherosclerosis, T(EM) (identified as CD4(+)CD44(+)CD62L(-)) were significantly increased in low-density lipoprotein receptor and apolipoprotein E deficient mice compared with controls and were correlated with the extent of atherosclerotic lesions in the aortic root (r=0.56; P<0.01). CONCLUSIONS#ENTITYSTARTX02014;: Circulating T(EM) cells are associated with increased atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease in humans and in animal models and could represent a key CD4(+)T-cell subset related to the atherosclerotic process. (J Am Heart Assoc. 2012;1:27-41.).

Keywords: C-c chemokine receptor type 7; atherosclerosis; chemokines; coronary artery disease; effector memory T cells.