Atherosclerosis is a major underlying cause of cardiovascular disease. Previous studies showed that inhibition of the co-stimulatory CD40 ligand (CD40L)-CD40 signaling axis profoundly attenuates atherosclerosis. As CD40L exerts multiple functions depending on the cell-cell interactions involved, we sought to investigate the function of the most relevant CD40L-expressing cell types in atherosclerosis: T cells and platelets. Atherosclerosis-prone mice with a CD40L-deficiency in CD4+ T cells display impaired Th1 polarization, as reflected by reduced interferon-γ production, and smaller atherosclerotic plaques containing fewer T-cells, smaller necrotic cores, an increased number of smooth muscle cells and thicker fibrous caps. Mice with a corresponding CD40-deficiency in CD11c+ dendritic cells phenocopy these findings, suggesting that the T cell-dendritic cell CD40L-CD40 axis is crucial in atherogenesis. Accordingly, sCD40L/sCD40 and interferon-γ concentrations in carotid plaques and plasma are positively correlated in patients with cerebrovascular disease. Platelet-specific deficiency of CD40L does not affect atherogenesis but ameliorates atherothrombosis. Our results establish divergent and cell-specific roles of CD40L-CD40 in atherosclerosis, which has implications for therapeutic strategies targeting this pathway.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Physics and Astronomy
- General Chemistry
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology