2007 George L. Duff Memorial Lecture—The Immune Response in Atherosclerosis
Immune responses participate in every phase of atherosclerosis. Indeed, atherosclerosis can be viewed as an immune/inflammatory response to lipoprotein retention in the artery wall. There is increasing evidence that both adaptive and innate immunity tightly regulate the atherosclerotic process. Specific antigens and pathogen-like molecular patterns initiate the 2 aspects of immunity by ligating T- and B-cell receptors and pattern recognition receptors, respectively. Effector responses of vascular immune reactions include macrophage activation, cellular immunity, antibody formation, and vascular inflammation. Whereas experimental studies in gene-targeted models have identified major roles for innate immunity and Th1 responses in plaque initiation and progression, clinical, epidemiological and genetic studies suggest that plaque activation, rupture, and atherothrombosis also depend on immune reactions. This lecture will focus on the role of immune mechanisms in the formation and activation of atherosclerotic plaques.