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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2012, Article ID 157534, 9 pages
Review Article

T Lymphocyte Autoreactivity in Inflammatory Mechanisms Regulating Atherosclerosis

1Dipartimento di Malattie Infettive, Parassitarie ed Immunomediate, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, viale Regina Elena 299, 00161 Rome, Italy
2Dipartimento di Fisiologia e Farmacologia “Vittorio Erspamer”, Sapienza Università di Roma, Piazzale Aldo Moro, 00185 Rome, Italy
3Dipartimento di Scienze Chirurgiche, Policlinico Umberto I, Sapienza Università di Roma, Piazzale Aldo Moro, 00185 Rome, Italy

Received 5 October 2012; Accepted 22 November 2012

Academic Editors: N. Miyahara and D. P. Ramji

Copyright © 2012 Elisabetta Profumo 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.


Atherosclerosis has been clearly demonstrated to be a chronic inflammatory disease of the arterial wall. Both cells of the innate and the acquired immune system, particularly monocytes and T lymphocytes, are implicated in the atherogenic process, producing different cytokines with pro- and anti-inflammatory effects. The majority of pathogenic T cells involved in atherosclerosis are of the Th1 profile, that has been correlated positively with coronary artery disease. Many studies conducted to evaluate the molecular factors responsible for the activation of T cells have demonstrated that the main antigenic targets in atherosclerosis are modified endogenous structures. These self-molecules activate autoimmune reactions mainly characterized by the production of Th1 cytokines, thus sustaining the inflammatory mechanisms involved in endothelial dysfunction and plaque development. In this paper we will summarize the different T-cell subsets involved in atherosclerosis and the best characterized autoantigens involved in cardiovascular inflammation.