Role of the Immune System in Hypertension

Physiol Rev. 2017 Jul 1;97(3):1127-1164. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00031.2016.


High blood pressure is present in more than one billion adults worldwide and is the most important modifiable risk factor of death resulting from cardiovascular disease. While many factors contribute to the pathogenesis of hypertension, a role of the immune system has been firmly established by a large number of investigations from many laboratories around the world. Immunosuppressive drugs and inhibition of individual cytokines prevent or ameliorate experimental hypertension, and studies in genetically-modified mouse strains have demonstrated that lymphocytes are necessary participants in the development of hypertension and in hypertensive organ injury. Furthermore, immune reactivity may be the driving force of hypertension in autoimmune diseases. Infiltration of immune cells, oxidative stress, and stimulation of the intrarenal angiotensin system are induced by activation of the innate and adaptive immunity. High blood pressure results from the combined effects of inflammation-induced impairment in the pressure natriuresis relationship, dysfunctional vascular relaxation, and overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system. Imbalances between proinflammatory effector responses and anti-inflammatory responses of regulatory T cells to a large extent determine the severity of inflammation. Experimental and human studies have uncovered autoantigens (isoketal-modified proteins and heat shock protein 70) of potential clinical relevance. Further investigations on the immune reactivity in hypertension may result in the identification of new strategies for the treatment of the disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Animals
  • Autoantigens / immunology
  • Autoimmunity
  • Bacteria / immunology
  • Blood Pressure / immunology*
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / immunology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / immunology*
  • Hypertension / metabolism
  • Hypertension / microbiology
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Risk Factors
  • Signal Transduction


  • Autoantigens
  • Cytokines