T-cell Cholesterol Accumulation, Aging, and Atherosclerosis

Venetia Bazioti, Benedek Halmos, Marit Westerterp*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The majority of leukocytes in advanced human atherosclerotic plaques are T-cells. T-cell subsets exert pro- or anti-atherogenic effects largely via the cytokines they secrete. T regulatory cells (T regs) are anti-inflammatory, but may lose these properties during atherosclerosis, proposed to be downstream of cholesterol accumulation. Aged T-cells also accumulate cholesterol. The effects of T-cell cholesterol accumulation on T-cell fate and atherosclerosis are not uniform.

RECENT FINDINGS: T-cell cholesterol accumulation enhances differentiation into pro-atherogenic cytotoxic T-cells and boosts their killing capacity, depending on the localization and extent of cholesterol accumulation. Excessive cholesterol accumulation induces T-cell exhaustion or T-cell apoptosis, the latter decreasing atherosclerosis but impairing T-cell functionality in terms of killing capacity and proliferation. This may explain the compromised T-cell functionality in aged T-cells and T-cells from CVD patients. The extent of T-cell cholesterol accumulation and its cellular localization determine T-cell fate and downstream effects on atherosclerosis and T-cell functionality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-534
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent atherosclerosis reports
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept-2023


  • Humans
  • Aged
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic
  • Cholesterol
  • T-Lymphocytes
  • Aging

Cite this