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Cytokine. 2010 Feb;49(2):185-93. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2009.09.007. Epub 2009 Oct 27.

The Th17/Treg functional imbalance during atherogenesis in ApoE(-/-) mice.

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Laboratory of Cardiovascular Immunology, Institute of Cardiology, Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430022, China.



Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease regulated by T lymphocyte subsets. Recently, CD4(+) CD25(+) Foxp3(+) regulatory T (Treg) cells and Th17 cells have been described as two distinct subsets and have the opposite effects on autoimmunity. Clinical observation has revealed that the Th17/Treg imbalance exists in patients with acute coronary syndrome. We investigated whether the Th17/Treg functional imbalance existed during atherogenesis in ApoE(-/-) mice.


Th17/Treg functions at different levels including cell frequencies, related cytokine secretion and key transcription factors were investigated comparatively between ApoE(-/-) mice and their age-matched C57BL/6J mice. The results demonstrated that ApoE(-/-) mice revealed significantly increased secretion of Th17 related cytokines (IL-17 and IL-6) and expression of transcription factor (RORgammat) levels and obviously decreased number in Treg cells, secretion of Treg related cytokines (TGF-beta(1)) and expression of transcription factor (Foxp3) levels as compared with age-matched C57BL/6J mice. Th17 related mediators reached their maximum expression values at the early stage (8-16weeks of age) in ApoE(-/-) mice, and then followed by continuous depression of their expression levels. Meanwhile, the expression of Treg related mediators was much lower in ApoE(-/-) mice than in their age-matched wild-type littermates.


Th17/Treg functional imbalance exists during atherogenesis in ApoE(-/-) mice, suggesting a potential role of Th17/Treg imbalance in the formation and progression of atherosclerosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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