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J Innate Immun. 2010;2(4):316-24. doi: 10.1159/000296915. Epub 2010 Mar 17.

Natural killer T cells and atherosclerosis: form and function meet pathogenesis.

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Department of Molecular Pathology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN 37232-6300, USA.


Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by dyslipidemia and accumulation of lipids in the arterial intima, with activation of both innate and adaptive immunity. Reciprocally, dyslipidemia associated with atherosclerosis can perturb normal immune function. Natural killer T (NKT) cells are a specialized group of immune cells that share characteristics with both conventional T cells and natural killer cells. However, unlike these cells, NKT cells recognize glycolipid antigens and produce both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines upon activation. Because of these unique characteristics, NKT cells have recently been ascribed a role in the regulation of immunity and inflammation, including cardiovascular disease. In addition, NKT cells represent a bridge between dyslipidemia and immune regulation. This review summarizes the current knowledge of NKT cells and discusses the interplay between dyslipidemia and the normal functions of NKT cells and how this might modulate inflammation and atherosclerosis.

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