The role of inflammatory cytokines in endothelial dysfunction


Clinical and experimental data support a link between endothelial dysfunction and inflammation. Inflammatory cytokines are important protagonists in formation of atherosclerotic plaque, eliciting effects throughout the atherosclerotic vessel. Importantly, the development of atherosclerotic lesions, regardless of the risk factor, e.g., diabetes, hypertension, obesity, is characterized by disruption in normal function of the endothelial cells. Endothelial cells, which line the internal lumen of the vasculature, are part of a complex system that regulates vasodilation and vasoconstriction, growth of vascular smooth muscle cells, inflammation, and hemostasis, maintaining a proper blood supply to tissues and regulating inflammation and coagulation. Current concepts suggest that the earliest event in atherogenesis is endothelial dysfunction, manifested by deficiencies in the production of nitric oxide (NO) and prostacyclin. The focus of this review is to summarize recent evidence showing the effects of inflammation on vascular dysfunction in ischemic-heart disease, which may prompt new directions for targeting inflammation in future therapies.

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The Figure design was created by Dr. Xiuping Chen. Funding Sources: Support from American Heart Association Scientist Development Grant (110350047A), Pfizer Atorvastatin Research Award (2004-37) and NIH grants (RO1-HL077566 and RO1-HL085119) to Dr. Cuihua Zhang. Conflicts of Interest: None.

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Correspondence to Cuihua Zhang MD, PhD.

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Returned for Revision: 18 February 2008 Revision received: 13 May 2008

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Zhang, C. The role of inflammatory cytokines in endothelial dysfunction. Basic Res Cardiol 103, 398–406 (2008).

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  • inflammation
  • vascular dysfunction
  • cytokines
  • ischemic-heart disease
  • nitric oxide
  • vasodilation