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J Am Coll Cardiol. 1994 Apr;23(5):1162-70.

Accumulation of T lymphocytes and expression of interleukin-2 receptors in nonrheumatic stenotic aortic valves.

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Department of Cardiology, Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.



Cell-specific antibodies were used to identify immunocompetent cells in a comparison of valves from patients who had symptomatic tricuspid aortic stenosis with subjects who had no evidence of valvular heart disease.


Nonrheumatic valvular aortic stenosis is the most common valvular heart disease among adults. The biologic processes involved in the development of this disease are poorly understood.


Tricuspid stenotic aortic valves were obtained from 19 patients undergoing surgery for nonrheumatic valvular aortic stenosis, and 10 control valves were collected at autopsy. The valves were fixed in formaldehyde, cryosectioned and stained with antibodies against fibroblasts, endothelial cells, macrophages, T lymphocytes and interleukin-2 receptors. A subset of valves were also analyzed with antibodies against T-helper cells and cytotoxic T cells.


Stenotic valves were characterized by a basal accumulation of calcium deposits and a cell-rich subendothelial thickening. The immunohistologic analysis indicated that the cells in the subendothelial connective tissue were fibroblasts. T lymphocytes appeared to be the most common cell type in the vicinity of the calcium deposits and were also found close to the endothelial lining of the valves. T-helper cells were more frequent than cytotoxic T cells. Expression of interleukin-2 receptors occurred at the same location as T lymphocytes. Control valves lacked subendothelial thickening and contained only few cells reacting with antibodies against lymphocytes and macrophages.


The presence of activated T lymphocytes in tricuspid stenotic valves suggests that immunologic mechanisms may be involved in the etiology of nonrheumatic aortic stenosis.

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