IL-17 and Th17 Cells in Atherosclerosis
Subtle and Contextual Roles
Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory arterial disease driven by both innate and adaptive immune responses to modified lipoproteins and components of the injured vascular wall. Specific T lymphocyte responses driven by T helper-1 or T regulatory cells play distinct and opposing roles in atherosclerosis. More recently, T helper-17 cells, which produce the prototype cytokine interleukin-17, have been characterized and shown to be critical in mucosal host defense against microbial and fungal pathogens. Sustained production of interleukin-17 in an inflammatory context has been linked to the pathology of several autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. However, regulatory and protective roles have also been reported in selective disease settings. Studies in atherosclerosis led to conflicting results on the roles of interleukin-17 and T helper-17 cells in disease development and plaque stability. The present review provides a summary of the available evidence and putative mechanisms linking this pathway to atherosclerosis, as well as a perspective on the risks and benefits of interleukin-17–targeted cytokine therapy in patients at high cardiovascular risk.
- Received June 26, 2014.
- Accepted September 5, 2014.
- © 2014 American Heart Association, Inc.