Functional Role of B Cells in Atherosclerosis

Cells. 2021 Jan 29;10(2):270. doi: 10.3390/cells10020270.


Atherosclerosis is a lipid-driven inflammatory disease of blood vessels, and both innate and adaptive immune responses are involved in its development. The impact of B cells on atherosclerosis has been demonstrated in numerous studies and B cells have been found in close proximity to atherosclerotic plaques in humans and mice. B cells exert both atheroprotective and pro-atherogenic functions, which have been associated with their B cell subset attribution. While B1 cells and marginal zone B cells are considered to protect against atherosclerosis, follicular B cells and innate response activator B cells have been shown to promote atherosclerosis. In this review, we shed light on the role of B cells from a different, functional perspective and focus on the three major B cell functions: antibody production, antigen presentation/T cell interaction, and the release of cytokines. All of these functions have the potential to affect atherosclerosis by multiple ways and are dependent on the cellular milieu and the activation status of the B cell. Moreover, we discuss B cell receptor signaling and the mechanism of B cell activation under atherosclerosis-prone conditions. By summarizing current knowledge of B cells in and beyond atherosclerosis, we are pointing out open questions and enabling new perspectives.

Keywords: B cells; adaptive immune system; atherosclerosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation / immunology
  • Atherosclerosis / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, Antigen, B-Cell