Expression of functional tissue factor in activated T-lymphocytes in vitro and in vivo: A possible contribution of immunity to thrombosis?

Int J Cardiol. 2016 Sep 1:218:188-195. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2016.04.177. Epub 2016 May 3.


Objective: T-lymphocyte activation plays an important role in the pathophysiology of acute coronary syndromes (ACS). Plaques from ACS patients show a selective oligoclonal expansion of T-cells, indicating a specific, antigen-driven recruitment of T-lymphocytes within the unstable lesions. At present, however, it is not known whether T-cells may contribute directly to thrombosis by expressing functional tissue factor (TF). Accordingly, the aim of the present study was to investigate whether T-cells are able to express functional TF in their activated status.

Methods: In vitro, CD3(+)-cells, isolated from buffy coats, were stimulated with anti-CD3/CD28 beads, IL-6, TNF-α, IL-17, INF-γ or PMA/ionomycin. Following stimulation, TF expression on cell-surface, at gene and protein levels, as well as its procoagulant activity in whole cells and microparticles was measured. In vivo, TF expression was evaluated in CD3(+)-cells isolated from the aorta and the coronary sinus of ACS-NSTEMI and stable coronary artery disease (SCAD) patients. The presence of CD3(+)-TF(+)cells was also evaluated by immunohistochemistry in thrombi aspirated from ACS-STEMI patients.

Results: PMA/ionomycin and IL-17 plus INF-γ stimulation resulted in a significant TF increase at gene and protein levels as well as at cell-surface expression. This was accompanied by a parallel increase in FXa generation, both in whole cells and in microparticles, indicating that the induced membrane-bound TF was active. Furthermore, transcardiac TF gradient was significantly higher in CD3(+)-cells obtained from ACS-patients compared to SCAD-patients. Interestingly, thrombi from ACS-STEMI patients resulted enriched in CD3(+)-cells, most of them expressing TF.

Conclusions: Our data demonstrate that activated T-lymphocytes in vitro express functional TF on their membranes, suggesting a direct pathophysiological role of these cells in the thrombotic process; this hypothesis is further supported by the observations in vivo that CD3(+)-cells from coronary circulation of ACS-NSTEMI patients show increased TF levels and that coronary thrombi from ACS-STEMI patients are enriched in CD3(+)-cells expressing TF.

Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Inflammation; T-lymphocyte; Thrombosis; Tissue factor.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / diagnostic imaging
  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / genetics
  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / immunology
  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Aged
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coronary Angiography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Signal Transduction
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Thromboplastin / genetics*
  • Thromboplastin / metabolism*
  • Thrombosis


  • Thromboplastin