Nature versus Number: Monocytes in Cardiovascular Disease

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Aug 24;22(17):9119. doi: 10.3390/ijms22179119.


Monocytes play a key role in cardiovascular disease (CVD) as their influx into the vessel wall is necessary for the development of an atherosclerotic plaque. Monocytes are, however, heterogeneous differentiating from classical monocytes through the intermediate subset to the nonclassical subset. While it is recognized that the percentage of intermediate and nonclassical monocytes are higher in individuals with CVD, accompanying changes in inflammatory markers suggest a functional impact on disease development that goes beyond the increased proportion of these 'inflammatory' monocyte subsets. Furthermore, emerging evidence indicates that changes in monocyte proportion and function arise in dyslipidemia, with lipid lowering medication having some effect on reversing these changes. This review explores the nature and number of monocyte subsets in CVD addressing what they are, when they arise, the effect of lipid lowering treatment, and the possible implications for plaque development. Understanding these associations will deepen our understanding of the clinical significance of monocytes in CVD.

Keywords: atherosclerosis; cardiovascular disease; dyslipidemia; inflammation; macrophage; monocytes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / etiology*
  • Atherosclerosis / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Dyslipidemias / complications*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Monocytes*