Effects of fatty acids on T cell function: role in atherosclerosis

Nat Rev Cardiol. 2021 Dec;18(12):824-837. doi: 10.1038/s41569-021-00582-9. Epub 2021 Jul 12.


T cells are among the most common cell types present in atherosclerotic plaques and are increasingly being recognized as a central mediator in atherosclerosis development and progression. At the same time, triglycerides and fatty acids have re-emerged as crucial risk factors for atherosclerosis. Triglycerides and fatty acids are important components of the milieu to which the T cell is exposed from the circulation to the plaque, and increasing evidence shows that fatty acids influence T cell function. In this Review, we discuss the effects of fatty acids on four components of the T cell response - metabolism, activation, proliferation and polarization - and the influence of these changes on the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. We also discuss how quiescent T cells can undergo a type of metabolic reprogramming induced by exposure to fatty acids in the circulation that influences the subsequent functions of T cells after activation, such as in atherosclerotic plaques.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Atherosclerosis* / pathology
  • Fatty Acids* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • T-Lymphocytes* / physiology


  • Fatty Acids