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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2014 Jan 15;306(2):H184-96. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00328.2013. Epub 2013 Oct 25.

Toll-like receptors and damage-associated molecular patterns: novel links between inflammation and hypertension.

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Department of Physiology, Georgia Regents University, Augusta, Georgia; and.


Low-grade systemic inflammation is a common manifestation of hypertension; however, the exact mechanisms that initiate this pathophysiological response, thereby contributing to further increases in blood pressure, are not well understood. Aberrant vascular inflammation and reactivity via activation of the innate immune system may be the first step in the pathogenesis of hypertension. One of the functions of the innate immune system is to recognize and respond to danger. Danger signals can arise from not only pathogenic stimuli but also endogenous molecules released following cell injury and/or death [damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs)]. In the short-term, activation of the innate immune system is beneficial in the vasculature by providing cytoprotective mechanisms and facilitating tissue repair following injury or infection. However, sustained or excessive immune system activation, such as in autoimmune diseases, may be deleterious and can lead to maladaptive, irreversible changes to vascular structure and function. An initial source of DAMPs that enter the circulation to activate the innate immune system could arise from modest elevations in peripheral vascular resistance. These stimuli could subsequently lead to ischemic- or pressure-induced events aggravating further cell injury and/or death, providing more DAMPs for innate immune system activation. This review will address and critically evaluate the current literature on the role of the innate immune system in hypertension pathogenesis. The role of Toll-like receptor activation on somatic cells of the vasculature in response to the release of DAMPs and the consequences of this activation on inflammation, vasoreactivity, and vascular remodeling will be specifically discussed.


innate immunity; vascular dysfunction; vascular remodeling

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