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Cardiovasc Res. 2008 Aug 1;79(3):360-76. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvn120. Epub 2008 May 16.

Cytokines and atherosclerosis: a comprehensive review of studies in mice.

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TNO-BioSciences, Gaubius-Laboratory, Department of Vascular and Metabolic Diseases, PO Box 2215, 2301 CE Leiden, The Netherlands.


In the past few years, inflammation has emerged as a major driving force of atherosclerotic lesion development. It is now well-established that from early lesion to vulnerable plaque formation, numerous cellular and molecular inflammatory components participate in the disease process. The most prominent cells that invade in evolving lesions are monocyte-derived macrophages and T-lymphocytes. Both cell types produce a wide array of soluble inflammatory mediators (cytokines, chemokines) which are critically important in the initiation and perpetuation of the disease. This review summarizes the currently available information from mouse studies on the contribution of a specified group of cytokines expressed in atherosclerotic lesions, viz. interleukins (IL-1, IL-2, IL-3, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, IL-10, IL-12, IL-18, IL-20) and macrophage-associated cytokines [tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha); macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF); interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma); colony stimulating factors G-CSF,-M-CSF,-GM-CSF) to atherogenesis. Emphasis is put on the consistency of the effects of these cytokines, i.e. inasmuch an effect depends on the experimental approach applied (overexpression/deletion, strain, gender, dietary conditions, and disease stage). An important outcome of this survey is (i) that only for a few cytokines there is sufficient consistent data allowing classifying them as typically proatherogenic (IL-1, IL-12, IL-18, MIF, IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, and M-CSF) or antiatherogenic (IL-10) and (ii) that some cytokines (IL-4, IL-6 and GM-CSF) can exert pro- or anti-atherogenic effects depending on the experimental conditions. This knowledge can be used for improved early detection, prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis.

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