CD40/CD40L and related signaling pathways in cardiovascular health and disease—The pros and cons for cardioprotection

Steffen Daub, Esther Lutgens, Thomas Münzel, Andreas Daiber

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The CD40–CD40 ligand (CD40L) dyad represents a scientific and clinical field that has raised many controversies in the past and cannot be clearly defined as being an either beneficial or harmful pathway. Being crucially involved in physiological immunological processes as well as pathological inflammatory reactions, the signaling pathway has been recognized as a key player in the development of both autoimmune and cardiovascular disease. Even though the possibilities of a therapeutic approach to the dyad were recognized decades ago, due to unfortunate events, detailed in this review, pharmacological treatment targeting the dyad, especially in patients suffering from atherosclerosis, is not available. Despite the recent advances in the treatment of classical cardiovascular risk factors, such as arterial hypertension and diabetes mellitus, the treatment of the associated low-grade inflammation that accounts for the progression of atherosclerosis is still challenging. Low-grade inflammation can be detected in a significant portion of patients that suffer from cardiovascular disease and it is therefore imperative to develop new therapeutic strategies in order to combat this driver of atherosclerosis. Of note, established cardiovascular drugs such as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or statins have proven beneficial cardiovascular effects that are also related to their pleiotropic immunomodulatory properties. In this review, we will discuss the setbacks encountered as well as new avenues discovered on the path to a different, inflammation-centered approach for the treatment of cardiovascular disease with the CD40–CD40L axis as a central therapeutic target.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8533
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2 2020


  • Atherosclerosis
  • CD40
  • CD40 ligand
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Inflammation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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