Increased CD8+ T cells associated with Chlamydia pneumoniae in symptomatic carotid plaque

Zurab G. Nadareishvili, Deloris E. Koziol, Brian Szekely, Christl Ruetzler, Ronald LaBiche, Richard McCarron, Thomas J. DeGraba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose - The presence of Chlamydia pneumoniae has been reported in carotid atheroma, but its causative effect in the activation of an atherosclerotic plaque to a prothrombotic state remains unproved. Antigen-mediated activation of T lymphocytes within plaque may represent a mechanism by which infection can result in plaque conversion. The goal of the present study was to characterize the T-cell subtype profile related to the presence of C pneumoniae in patients with symptomatic versus asymptomatic carotid atherosclerosis. Methods - We studied 14 plaques (5 symptomatic and 9 asymptomatic) positive for C pneumoniae confirmed by polymerase chain reaction and 14 plaques (6 symptomatic and 8 asymptomatic) from age- and stenosis-matched patients negative for C pneumoniae by polymerase chain reaction. T-cell subpopulations of T-helper, T-cytotoxic, and T-memory lymphocytes were identified through indirect enzyme immunohistochemistry with anti-CD3+, anti-CD4+, anti-CD8+, and anti-CD45RO+ monoclonal antibodies, respectively. Results are expressed as the number of positive cells per millimeter squared. Results - In the absence of C pneumoniae, symptomatic plaques had a modest but significant increase of CD3+ (89.6 versus 55.3, P=0.013), CD4+ (57.3 versus 32.7, P=0.01), and CD45RO+ (82.8 versus 43.7, P=0.007), but not CD8+ T cells (28.5 versus 25.5, P=0.245) compared with asymptomatic. However, in the presence of C pneumoniae, there was significant increase of all T-lymphocyte subtypes in symptomatic plaques, including CD8+ (76.8 versus 30.3, P=0.03), CD3+ (192.1 versus 80.4, P=0.004), CD4+ (111.9 versus 37.9, P=0.003), and CD45RO+ (120.2 versus 72.9, P=0.003) cells compared with asymptomatic plaques. With use of 2-way ANOVA, both the presence of chlamydia and symptoms were associated with significantly higher T-cell counts (P<0.005 for all subtypes). Conclusions - Although all patients with symptomatic disease show a modest elevation in the concentration of intraplaque lymphocytes, a preferential increase in CD8+ class I-restricted T cells is observed in symptomatic carotid plaque positive for C pneumoniae. These data provide incentive to further explore the role of Chlamydia in the modification of immune-mediated mechanisms in active atherosclerotic plaque.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1966-1972
Number of pages7
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Carotid artery diseases
  • Chlamydia pneumoniae
  • Leukocytes
  • Plaque

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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