Immune regulation of systemic hypertension, pulmonary arterial hypertension, and preeclampsia: shared disease mechanisms and translational opportunities

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2017 Dec 1;313(6):R693-R705. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00259.2017. Epub 2017 Oct 4.


Systemic hypertension, preeclampsia, and pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) are diseases of high blood pressure in the systemic or pulmonary circulation. Beyond the well-defined contribution of more traditional pathophysiological mechanisms, such as changes in the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, to the development of these hypertensive disorders, there is substantial clinical evidence supporting an important role for inflammation and immunity in the pathogenesis of each of these three conditions. Over the last decade, work in small animal models, bearing targeted deficiencies in specific cytokines or immune cell subsets, has begun to clarify the immune-mediated mechanisms that drive changes in vascular structure and tone in hypertensive disease. By summarizing the clinical and experimental evidence supporting a contribution of the immune system to systemic hypertension, preeclampsia, and PAH, the current review highlights the cellular and molecular pathways that are common to all three hypertensive disorders. These mechanisms are centered on an imbalance in CD4+ helper T cell populations, defined by excessive Th17 responses and impaired Treg activity, as well as the excessive activation or impairment of additional immune cell types, including macrophages, dendritic cells, CD8+ T cells, B cells, and natural killer cells. The identification of common immune mechanisms in systemic hypertension, preeclampsia, and PAH raises the possibility of new therapeutic strategies that target the immune component of hypertension across multiple disorders.

Keywords: hypertension; immunity; inflammation; preeclampsia; pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / immunology*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Hypertension / therapy
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / immunology*
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / physiopathology
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / therapy
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Pre-Eclampsia / immunology*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / physiopathology
  • Pre-Eclampsia / therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Translational Research, Biomedical