Natural killer cells, gamma delta T cells and classical monocytes are associated with systolic blood pressure in the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis (MESA)

BMC Cardiovasc Disord. 2021 Jan 22;21(1):45. doi: 10.1186/s12872-021-01857-2.


Background: Hypertension is a major source of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Recent evidence from mouse models, genetic, and cross-sectional human studies suggest increased proportions of selected immune cell subsets may be associated with levels of systolic blood pressure (SBP).

Methods: We assayed immune cells from cryopreserved samples collected at the baseline examination (2000-2002) from 1195 participants from the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis (MESA). We used linear mixed models, with adjustment for age, sex, race/ethnicity, smoking, exercise, body mass index, education, diabetes, and cytomegalovirus titers, to estimate the associations between 30 immune cell subsets (4 of which were a priori hypotheses) and repeated measures of SBP (baseline and up to four follow-up measures) over 10 years. The analysis provides estimates of the association with blood pressure level.

Results: The mean age of the MESA participants at baseline was 64 ± 10 years and 53% were male. A one standard deviation (1-SD) increment in the proportion of γδ T cells was associated with 2.40 mmHg [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.34-3.42] higher average systolic blood pressure; and for natural killer cells, a 1-SD increment was associated with 1.88 mmHg (95% CI 0.82-2.94) higher average level of systolic blood pressure. A 1-SD increment in classical monocytes (CD14++CD16-) was associated with 2.01 mmHG (95% CI 0.79-3.24) lower average systolic blood pressure. There were no associations of CD4+ T helper cell subsets with average systolic blood pressure.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that the innate immune system plays a role in levels of SBP whereas there were no associations with adaptive immune cells.

Keywords: Adaptive immunity; Cryopreserved cells; Innate immunity; Longitudinal cohort study; Lymphocytes; Monocytes; Systolic blood pressure; Γδ T cells.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / diagnosis
  • Hypertension / ethnology
  • Hypertension / immunology*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology*
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Intraepithelial Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Phenotype
  • Prognosis
  • United States / epidemiology