Circulating CD4+CD25hiCD127lo Regulatory T-Cell Levels Do Not Reflect the Extent or Severity of Carotid and Coronary Atherosclerosis
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Objective— Regulatory T (Treg) cells play a protective role in experimental atherosclerosis. In the present study, we investigated whether the levels of circulating Treg cells relate to the degree of atherosclerosis in carotid and coronary arteries.
Methods and Results— We studied 2 distinct populations: (1) 113 subjects, selected from a free-living population (carotid study), in which we measured the intima-media thickness of the common carotid artery, as a surrogate marker of initial atherosclerosis; and (2) 75 controls and 125 patients with coronary artery disease (coronary study): 36 with chronic stable angina, 50 with non-ST-elevation acute coronary syndrome, 39 with ST-elevation acute myocardial infarction. Treg-cell levels were evaluated by flow cytometry (Treg cells identified as CD3+CD4+CD25highCD127low) and by mRNA expression of forkhead box P3 or of Treg-associated cytokine interleukin 10. In the carotid study, no correlation was observed between Treg-cell levels and intima-media thickness. No differences in Treg-cell levels were observed comparing rapid versus slow intima-media thickness progressors from a subgroup of patients (n=65), in which prospective data on 6-year intima-media thickness progression were available. In the coronary group, Treg-cell levels were not altered in chronic stable angina patients. In contrast, nonunivocal variations were observed in patients suffering an acute coronary syndrome (with a Treg-cell increase in ST-elevation acute myocardial infarction and a Treg-cell decrease in non-ST-elevation acute coronary syndrome patients).
Conclusion— The results suggest that determination of circulating Treg-cell levels based on flow cytometry or mRNA assessment is not a useful indicator of the extent or severity of atherosclerosis.