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Cardiovasc Res. 2000 Dec;48(3):402-8.

Unstable atherosclerotic plaques contain T-cells that respond to Chlamydia pneumoniae.

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Department of Cardiovascular Pathology, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Atherosclerotic lesions are characterized by an immune mediated chronic inflammation. Seroepidemiological studies support a relationship between atherosclerotic disease and infection with C. pneumoniae; an association further endorsed by immunocytochemical and DNA directed studies. However, the question arises whether C. pneumoniae acts as a causal antigen, or is merely a bystander. For this reason we have analyzed the T lymphocyte population of carotid atherosclerotic plaques of symptomatic patients for their response against C. pneumoniae.


T cell lines were generated from carotid endarterectomy tissues obtained from eight patients with symptomatic disease. The response of these T cell lines against C. pneumoniae elementary bodies was analyzed by 3H-thymidine incorporation. T cell clones were generated by limiting dilution from the cell lines of three patients and tested for antigen specificity in the same manner. Furthermore, cytokine profiles (Th1/Th0/Th2) were established by measuring the production of IFN-gamma and IL-4.


Of the eight T-cell lines five responded to C. pneumoniae. Eighteen of 69 CD4-positive clones, generated from three patients with a positive T cell lines response, responded to C. pneumoniae also. The majority (17/18, 96%) of these clones showed a Th1 cytokine profile.


These results show that in a subpopulation of symptomatic patients C. pneumoniae can activate T cells within atherosclerotic plaques suggesting that a C. pneumoniae enhanced proinflammatory Th1 response contributes to plaque destabilization in these patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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