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Indexed/Abstracted in: BIOSIS Previews, Current Contents/Clinical Medicine, EMBASE, PubMed/MEDLINE, Science Citation Index Expanded (SciSearch), Scopus
Impact Factor 1,632
Online ISSN 1827-191X
Profumo E. 1, Buttari B. 1, Tosti M. E. 2, Tagliani A. 3, Capoano R. 4, D’amati G. 5, Businaro R. 3, Salvati B. 4, Riganò R. 1
1 Department of Infectious, Parasitic and Immune-mediated Diseases, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy;
2 National Centre of Epidemiology, Surveillance and Health Promotion, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy;
3 Department of Human Anatomy, La Sapienza University, Rome, Italy;
4 Department of Surgical Sciences, La Sapienza University, Policlinico Umberto I, Rome, Italy;
5 Department of Experimental Medicine, La Sapienza University, Rome, Italy
Aim: Inflammation plays a crucial role in the progression of atherosclerotic plaques. The aim of the present study was to investigate phenotypic and functional characteristics of plaque-infiltrating T lymphocytes associated with a complicated phenotype of carotid atherosclerotic lesions.
Methods: Atherosclerotic plaques were obtained from 17 patients undergoing carotid endarterectomy and cultured to isolate infiltrating T lymphocytes. Blood samples were obtained from patients and from 20 sex- and age-matched healthy subjects. The presence of lymphocytes (CD3+ cells) within atherosclerotic plaques was determined by immunohistochemistry. Phenotypic characteristics and intracellular cytokine expression of plaque-infiltrating and circulating T lymphocytes were determined by flow cytometry. Cytokine levels in supernatants from infiltrating T cell cultures were evaluated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Results: A higher number of CD3+ cells was detected in complicated than in uncomplicated plaques. Complicated plaques had higher percentages of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α- and interferon (IFN)-γ- positive cells than uncomplicated ones, especially in CD4+ subpopulation. In patients the percentages of TNF-α-positive cells were higher in infiltrating than in circulating lymphocyte samples. Intracellular TNF-α, IFN-γ, interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-10 expression resulted higher in circulating lymphocyte samples from patients than in those from healthy subjects. Supernatants of infiltrating T cell cultures from complicated plaques showed higher levels of TNF-α and lower levels of IL-4 than those from uncomplicated plaques.
Conclusion: Our data provide new information on the presence of increased percentages of pro-inflammatory T lymphocytes in complicated plaques with respect to uncomplicated ones and support the concept of the key role played by activated T cells in the progression of atherosclerotic lesions.