Inflammation and immune system interactions in atherosclerosis

Bart Legein, Lieve Temmerman, Erik A. L. Biessen, Esther Lutgens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of mortality worldwide, accounting for 16.7 million deaths each year. The underlying cause of the majority of CVD is atherosclerosis. In the past, atherosclerosis was considered to be the result of passive lipid accumulation in the vessel wall. Today's picture is far more complex. Atherosclerosis is considered a chronic inflammatory disease that results in the formation of plaques in large and mid-sized arteries. Both cells of the innate and the adaptive immune system play a crucial role in its pathogenesis. By transforming immune cells into pro- and anti-inflammatory chemokine- and cytokine-producing units, and by guiding the interactions between the different immune cells, the immune system decisively influences the propensity of a given plaque to rupture and cause clinical symptoms like myocardial infarction and stroke. In this review, we give an overview on the newest insights in the role of different immune cells and subtypes in atherosclerosis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3847-3869
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Innate immune system
  • Adaptive immune system
  • Co-stimulation

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