AIMS: Regulatory T cells (Treg) exert anti-inflammatory and atheroprotective effects in experimental atherosclerosis. Treg can be induced against specific antigens using immunization strategies associated with clonal restriction. No data exist on Treg in combination with clonal restriction of T cells in patients with acute coronary syndromes (ACS).
METHODS AND RESULTS: Among T cell subsets characterized by flow cytometry, Treg (CD4(+) CD25(+) CD127(low)) were twice as frequent in coronary thrombi compared with peripheral blood. Treg prevailed among T cell subsets identified in coronary thrombi. To evaluate clonal restriction, genomic DNA was extracted from coronary thrombi and peripheral blood in order to evaluate T cell receptor (TCR) β chain diversity by means of Multi-N-plex PCR using a primer speciﬁc for all TCR β V gene segments and another primer speciﬁc for TCR β J gene segments. T cell receptor diversity was reduced in thrombi compared with peripheral blood (intra-individual comparisons in 16 patients) with 8 gene rearrangements in the TCR common in at least 6 out of 16 analysed coronary thrombi. Compared with age-matched healthy controls (n = 16), TCR diversity was also reduced in peripheral blood of patients with ACS; these findings were independent of peripheral T cell numbers.
CONCLUSION: We provide novel evidence for a perturbed T cell compartment characterized by clonal restriction in peripheral blood and coronary thrombi from patients with ACS. Our findings warrant further studies on Treg as novel therapeutic targets aimed at enhancing this anti-inflammatory component of adaptive immunity in human atherothrombosis.