Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 70, Issue 20, pp 3847–3869 | Cite as

Inflammation and immune system interactions in atherosclerosis

  • Bart Legein
  • Lieve Temmerman
  • Erik A. L. Biessen
  • Esther LutgensEmail author


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.


Atherosclerosis Innate immune system Adaptive immune system Co-stimulation 



This work was supported by the AMC fellowship grant (E.L.), Humboldt Foundation (Sofja Kovalevskaja grant to E.L.), the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (VIDI grant to E.L.), the Netherlands Heart Foundation (established investigator grant to E.L.), and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG FOR809 and SFB 1054 to E.L.).


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bart Legein
    • 1
  • Lieve Temmerman
    • 1
  • Erik A. L. Biessen
    • 1
  • Esther Lutgens
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Experimental Vascular Pathology, Department of Pathology, Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (CARIM)University of MaastrichtMaastrichtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Experimental Vascular Biology, Department of Medical Biochemistry, Academic Medical Center (AMC)University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Institute for Cardiovascular Prevention (IPEK)Ludwig Maximilian’s UniversityMunichGermany

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