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Lab Invest. 2009 Jun;89(6):657-67. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.2009.29. Epub 2009 Apr 20.

Interleukin-18 predicts atherosclerosis progression in SIV-infected and uninfected rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) on a high-fat/high-cholesterol diet.

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  • 1Harvard Medical School, New England Primate Research Center, Southborough, MA 01772-9102, USA.


Interleukin (IL)-18 levels have been identified as important predictors of cardiovascular mortality and are often elevated in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals. To investigate a possible function for IL-18 in atherogenesis in the context of early HIV infection, we used the simian immunodeficiency model of HIV infection. Acutely simian immunodeficiency virus-infected and uninfected rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) on an atherogenic diet were evaluated prospectively for atherosclerotic lesion development relative to a panel of plasma markers including IL-18, IL-8, IL-1beta, IL-6, C-reactive protein, soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1, soluble E-selectin, and soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1. Although no significant differences in lesion development were identified between groups after 35 days of infection, levels of plasma IL-18 measured 1 month before virus inoculation correlated significantly with atherosclerotic plaque cross-sectional area at the carotid bifurcation (P<0.001, R=0.946), common iliac bifurcation (P<0.01, R=0.789), and cranial abdominal aorta (P<0.01, R=0.747), as well as with extent of CD3+ and CD68+ cellular infiltration in vascular lesions (both P<0.001, R>or=0.835) in both groups. Atherosclerotic plaque area at the carotid and common iliac bifurcations also showed a weaker inverse correlation with baseline IL-8 levels, as did CD68+ signal area. Results implicate a strong role for IL-18 in early atherosclerosis progression and raise the possibility that the chronically elevated IL-18 levels seen in later stages of HIV infection may contribute significantly to accelerated atherogenesis in this population.

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