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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Apr 25, 1995; 92(9): 3893–3897.
PMCID: PMC42068

T lymphocytes from human atherosclerotic plaques recognize oxidized low density lipoprotein.

Abstract

Atherosclerosis, an underlying cause of myocardial infarction, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases, consists of focal plaques characterized by cholesterol deposition, fibrosis, and inflammation. The presence of activated T lymphocytes and macrophages and high expression of HLA class II molecules are indicative of a local immunologic activation in the atherosclerotic plaque, but the antigen(s) involved has not yet been identified. We established T-cell clones from human atherosclerotic plaques using polyclonal mitogens as stimuli and exposed the clones to potential antigens in the presence of autologous monocytes as antigen-presenting cells. Four of the 27 CD4+ clones responded to oxidized low density lipoprotein (oxLDL) by proliferation and cytokine secretion; this response was dependent on autologous antigen-presenting cells and restricted by HLA-DR. All clones that responded to oxLDL secreted interferon gamma upon activation, but only one produced interleukin 4, suggesting that the response to oxLDL results in immune activation and inflammation but may not be a strong stimulus to antibody production. No significant response to oxLDL could be detected in CD4+ T-cell clones derived from the peripheral blood of the same individuals. Together, the present data suggest that the inflammatory infiltrate in the atherosclerotic plaque is involved in a T-cell-dependent, autoimmune response to oxLDL.

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