Glucocorticoid induced TNF receptor family-related protein (GITR) – A novel driver of atherosclerosis

Laura A. Bosmans, Annelie Shami, Dorothee Atzler, Christian Weber, Isabel Gonçalves, Esther Lutgens

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Atherosclerosis is a lipid-driven, chronic inflammatory disease. In spite of efficient lipid lowering treatments, such as statins and PCSK9 inhibitors, patients, especially those with elevated inflammatory biomarkers, still have a significant residual cardiovascular disease risk. Novel drugs targeting inflammatory mediators are needed to further reduce this residual risk. Agonistic immune checkpoint proteins, including CD86, CD40L and CD40, have been shown to be drivers of atherosclerosis. Recently, glucocorticoid-induced tumour necrosis factor receptor family-related protein (GITR), a co-stimulatory immune checkpoint protein, was identified to be pivotal in cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular patients have elevated soluble GITR plasma levels compared to healthy controls. Furthermore, in human carotid endarterectomy plaques, GITR expression was higher in plaques from symptomatic compared to asymptomatic patients and correlated with features of plaque vulnerability. Moreover, depleting GITR reduced atherosclerotic plaque development in mice. GITR-deficient monocytes and macrophages exhibited less inflammatory potential and reduced migratory capacity. In this review, we discuss GITR's effects on various immune cells, mechanisms, signalling pathways and finally GITR's potential as a novel drug target in atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106884
JournalVascular Pharmacology
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Atherosclerosis
  • CVD
  • Costimulatory molecule
  • GITR
  • Immune checkpoint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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