Regulatory T Cells Limit Vascular Endothelial Injury and Prevent Pulmonary Hypertension
Rationale: Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is an incurable disease associated with viral infections and connective tissue diseases. The relationship between inflammation and disease pathogenesis in these disorders remains poorly understood.
Objective: To determine whether immune dysregulation due to absent T-cell populations directly contributes to the development of PAH.
Methods and Results: Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2) blockade induced significant pulmonary endothelial apoptosis in T-cell-deficient rats but not in immune-reconstituted (IR) rats. T cell–lymphopenia in association with VEGFR2 blockade resulted in periarteriolar inflammation with macrophages, and B cells even prior to vascular remodeling and elevated pulmonary pressures. IR prevented early inflammation and attenuated PAH development. IR with either CD8 T cells alone or with CD4-depleted spleen cells was ineffective in preventing PAH, whereas CD4-depleting immunocompetent euthymic animals increased PAH susceptibility. IR with either CD4+CD25hi or CD4+CD25− T cell subsets prior to vascular injury attenuated the development of PAH. Immune reconstitution limited perivascular inflammation and endothelial apoptosis in rat lungs in association with increased FoxP3±, IL-10- and TGF-β-expressing CD4 cells, and upregulation of pulmonary bone morphogenetic protein receptor type 2 (BMPR2)–expressing cells, a receptor that activates endothelial cell survival pathways.
Conclusions: PAH may arise when regulatory T-cell (Treg) activity fails to control endothelial injury. These studies suggest that regulatory T cells normally function to limit vascular injury and may protect against the development of PAH.
- pulmonary arterial hypertension
- regulatory T cell
- bone morphogenetic protein receptor type 2
- Received November 15, 2010.
- Revision received August 10, 2011.
- Accepted August 12, 2011.
- © 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.