The role of the vascular dendritic cell network in atherosclerosis

American Journal of Physiology. Cell Physiology
Noah Alberts-GrillHanjoong Jo

Abstract

A complex role has been described for dendritic cells (DCs) in the potentiation and control of vascular inflammation and atherosclerosis. Resident vascular DCs are found in the intima of atherosclerosis-prone vascular regions exposed to disturbed blood flow patterns. Several phenotypically and functionally distinct vascular DC subsets have been described. The functional heterogeneity of these cells and their contributions to vascular homeostasis, inflammation, and atherosclerosis are only recently beginning to emerge. Here, we review the available literature, characterizing the origin and function of known vascular DC subsets and their important role contributing to the balance of immune activation and immune tolerance governing vascular homeostasis under healthy conditions. We then discuss how homeostatic DC functions are disrupted during atherogenesis, leading to atherosclerosis. The effectiveness of DC-based "atherosclerosis vaccine" therapies in the treatment of atherosclerosis is also reviewed. We further provide suggestions for distinguishing DCs from macrophages and discuss important future directions for the field.

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