• coronary artery disease;
  • cytomegalovirus;
  • immune system;
  • T lymphocytes

Abstract. Jonasson L, Tompa A, Wikby A (Heart Center, University Hospital, Linköping; Ryhov Hospital, Jönköping; and School of Health Sciences, Jönköping University, Jönköping; Sweden). Expansion of peripheral CD8+ T cells in patients with coronary artery disease: relation to cytomegalovirus infection. J Intern Med 2003; 254: 472–478.

Objectives. The nature of the immune response in coronary artery disease (CAD) is not fully defined. One pathogen that has been linked to atherogenesis, cytomegalovirus (CMV), is known to exert strong and long-lasting effects on peripheral T cells. In the present study, we investigated the effect of prior CMV infection on the immune system in CAD patients.

Subjects. Patients with stable angina and angiographically verified CAD (n = 43) and clinically healthy controls (n = 69) were included.

Methods. The expression of CD57 and CD28 on peripheral CD4+ and CD8+ T cells was evaluated with three-colour flow cytometry. The findings were related to serological markers of inflammation, T-cell activation and CMV seropositivity.

Results. An expansion of CD8+ T cells expressing CD57 but lacking CD28 was seen in the patient group. The numbers of CD8+ CD57+ and CD8+ CD28T-cell subsets were independently related to CMV seropositivity (P < 0.001) but also to CAD per se (P < 0.05). Serum concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP) and soluble interleukin-2 receptor (sIL-2R) were elevated in the patients but not related to CMV or CD8+ T-cell subsets.

Conclusion. A pronounced shift in peripheral T-cell homeostasis was observed in CAD patients. Primarily CMV infection but also CAD per se contributed to the expansion of CD8+ T-cell subsets. The T-cell changes were not related to a systemic inflammatory response but should rather be considered as markers of a chronic antigen exposure and/or immunosenescence in CAD.