The Cardiovascular Epidemiology and Genome-Wide Associations of Biomarkers of Innate and Adaptive Immunity: sCD163 and sIL2RA

Jon Peter Durda, University of Vermont


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the U.S. and worldwide. Atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in the arteries, is a common cause of CVD. For many years, research in atherosclerosis was focused on lipid metabolism and the accumulation of low-density lipoprotein in the arteries. While this research set public health guidelines for lipid management, lipid concentration was not the only factor influencing atherosclerosis and CVD events. Many scientists, as far back as the 1850’s recognized the role of inflammation in the progression of atherosclerotic disease. The continuous low levels of immune activation in the body contribute to atherosclerosis. Research in animal models and epidemiologic studies have shown the involvement of both the innate and the adaptive immune systems in plaque development and to elucidate the roles of monocytes and T cells. In addition to animal studies and epidemiologic research, CVD and atherosclerotic research has extended to genetic analysis in the search for associations with risk factors and outcomes.

The first chapter is a review of the literature studying the immune system’s involvement in atherosclerosis. Beginning with an examination of the impact of CVD and atherosclerosis, the basic pathophysiology, and the involvement of the innate and adaptive immune systems through animal models and epidemiology. Some of the significant cohort studies in CVD and genome wide association studies are also discussed.

Chapter 2 examines the associations of soluble interleukin 2 receptor alpha (sIL-2Rα) with clinical events in the Cardiovascular Health Study and genetic variants. Interleukin 2 (IL-2) and its receptor regulate both tolerance and immunity, IL-2 induces the proliferation and differentiation of T cells, part of the adaptive immune system. The results showed an association between sIL-2Rα and CVD events. The genome-wide association study found 52 variants to be significantly associated with sIL-2Rα in European Americans.

Chapter 3 assesses the involvement of the innate immune system in atherosclerosis through the associations of soluble CD163 (sCD163). CD163 is a marker of macrophage activation, specifically associated with M2 macrophages. In CHS, sCD163 levels were analyzed for associations with cardiovascular events and genetic variants. sCD163 was found to be associated with CVD risk factors and with cardiovascular events. In a genome-wide association study six variants in European Americans and three variants in African Americans were found to be significant.

Chapter 4 summarizes the results and discusses some bench to bedside translational science already seen in atherosclerosis treatment and prevention. Continued investigation of markers of T-cell and monocyte differentiation in animal models and cohort studies may lead to opportunities for the prevention of atherosclerosis and/or treatment through an increased understanding of the biology and genetics of the innate and adaptive immune.