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Ann Med. 2004;36(2):98-118.

Chemokines and atherosclerosis.

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Center for Molecular Medicine, Cardiovascular Research Unit, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.


Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease of the vessel wall, characterized by the accumulation of leukocytes, especially macrophages and T-cells. Chemokines are small heparin-binding polypeptides, whose main function is to attract cells to the areas of developing inflammation. They function by ligating G-protein coupled chemokine receptors initiating different signaling cascades. In vivo and in vitro investigations showed that chemokines are produced by a variety of cells and play important roles in the development and progression of many physiological and pathological conditions including atherosclerosis. Chemokines such as MCP-1, MCP-4, MIP-1 and RANTES may mediate leukocyte trafficking to, and their retention in, the plaque while CXCL16 seems to fulfill the dual function of a chemokine and a scavenger receptor. Chemokine and chemokine receptor homologues are secreted by several viruses, which may also play a role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Expression levels and gene polymorphisms of some chemokines may become useful clinical markers of atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases. Modulation of chemokines and chemokine receptors' expression as well as their signaling pathways may provide important anti-atherogenic strategies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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