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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains a significant global health concern with a high degree of mortality. While CD4+ T cells have been extensively studied in CVD, the importance of CD8+ T cells in this disease, despite their abundance and increased activation in human atherosclerotic plaques, remains largely unknown. Thus, the objective of this study was to compare peripheral T-cell signatures between humans with a high (severe) risk of CVD (including myocardial infarction or stroke) and those with a low risk of CVD. Approach and Results: Using mass cytometry, we uncovered a naive CD8+ T (TN) cell population expressing CD95 (termed CD95+CD8+ stem cell memory T [CD8 TSCM] cells) that was enriched in patients with high compared with low CVD. This T-cell subset enrichment within individuals with high CVD was a relative increase and resulted from the loss of CD95lo cells within the TN compartment. We found that CD8 TSCM cells positively correlated with CVD risk in humans, while CD8+ TN cells were inversely correlated. Atherosclerotic apolipoprotein E-deficient (ApoE-/-) mice also displayed respective 7- and 2-fold increases in CD8+ TSCM frequencies within the peripheral blood and aorta-draining paraaortic lymph nodes compared with C57BL/6J mice. CD8+ TSCM cells were 1.7-fold increased in aortas from western diet fed ApoE-/- mice compared with normal laboratory diet-fed ApoE-/- mice. Importantly, transfer of TSCM cells into immune-deficient Rag.Ldlr recipient mice that lacked T cells increased atherosclerosis, illustrating the importance of these cells in atherogenesis. CD8+ TSCM cells are increased in humans with high CVD. As these TSCM cells promote atherosclerosis, targeting them may attenuate atherosclerotic plaque progression.


Lindsey E Padgett, Huy Q Dinh, Runpei Wu, Dalia E Gaddis, Daniel J Araujo, Holger Winkels, Anh Nguyen, Coleen A McNamara, Catherine C Hedrick. Naive CD8+ T Cells Expressing CD95 Increase Human Cardiovascular Disease Severity. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology. 2020 Dec;40(12):2845-2859

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PMID: 33054398

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