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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 2007 (2007), Article ID 75805, 8 pages
Review Article

The Immune Response Is Involved in Atherosclerotic Plaque Calcification: Could the RANKL/RANK/OPG System Be a Marker of Plaque Instability?

Division of Cardiology, Foundation for Medical Researches, University Hospital of Geneva, Geneva 1211, Switzerland

Received 16 August 2007; Accepted 14 October 2007

Academic Editor: Charles Mackay

Copyright © 2007 Fabrizio Montecucco et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Atherogenesis is characterized by an intense inflammatory process, involving immune and vascular cells. These cells play a crucial role in all phases of atherosclerotic plaque formation and complication through cytokine, protease, and prothrombotic factor secretion. The accumulation of inflammatory cells and thus high amounts of soluble mediators are responsible for the evolution of some plaques to instable phenotype which may lead to rupture. One condition strongly associated with plaque rupture is calcification, a physiopathological process orchestrated by several soluble factors, including the receptor activator of nuclear factor NFκB ligand (RANKL)/receptor activator of nuclear factor NFκB (RANK)/osteoprotegerin (OPG) system. Although some studies showed some interesting correlations with acute ischemic events, at present, more evidences are needed to evaluate the predictive and diagnostic value of serum sRANKL and OPG levels for clinical use. The major limitation is probably the poor specificity of these factors for cardiovascular disease. The identification of tissue-specific isoforms could increase the importance of sRANKL and OPG in predicting calcified plaque rupture and the dramatic ischemic consequences in the brain and the heart.