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Interleukin-23 receptor expressing γδ T cells locally promote early atherosclerotic lesion formation and plaque necrosis in mice.

Cardiovasc Res. 2021 Dec 13:cvab359. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvab359. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34897380.

Authors/Editors: Gil-Pulido J, Amézaga N, Jorgacevic I, Manthey HD, Rösch M, Brand T, Cidlinsky P, Schäfer S, Beilhack A, Saliba AE, Lorenz K, Boon L, Prinz I, Waisman A, Korn T, Cochain C, Zernecke A.
Publication Date: 2021




Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the vessel wall controlled by local and systemic immune responses. The role of interleukin-23 receptor (IL-23R), expressed in adaptive immune cells (mainly T-helper 17 cells) and γδ T cells, in atherosclerosis is only incompletely understood. Here, we investigated the vascular cell types expressing IL-23R and addressed the function of IL-23R and γδ T cells in atherosclerosis.

Methods and results

IL-23R+ cells were frequently found in the aortic root in contrast to the aorta in low-density lipoprotein receptor deficient IL-23R reporter mice (Ldlr−/−Il23rgfp/+), and mostly identified as γδ T cells that express IL-17 and GM-CSF. scRNA-seq confirmed γδ T cells as the main cell type expressing Il23r and Il17a in the aorta. Ldlr−/−Il23rgfp/gfp mice deficient in IL-23R showed a loss of IL-23R+ cells in the vasculature, and had reduced atherosclerotic lesion formation in the aortic root compared to Ldlr−/− controls after 6 weeks of high-fat diet feeding. In contrast, Ldlr−/−Tcrδ−/− mice lacking all γδ T cells displayed unaltered early atherosclerotic lesion formation compared to Ldlr−/− mice. In both HFD-fed Ldlr−/−Il23rgfp/gfp and Ldlr−/−Tcrδ−/− mice a reduction in the plaque necrotic core area was noted as well as an expansion of splenic regulatory T cells. In vitro, exposure of bone marrow-derived macrophages to both IL-17A and GM-CSF induced cell necrosis, and necroptotic RIP3K and MLKL expression, as well as inflammatory mediators.


IL-23R+ γδ T cells are predominantly found in the aortic root rather than the aorta and promote early atherosclerotic lesion formation, plaque necrosis, and inflammation at this site. Targeting IL-23R may thus be explored as a therapeutic approach to mitigate atherosclerotic lesion development.


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