BACKGROUND: Experimental and clinical evidence indicate that inflammatory processes in atherogenesis and the development of cardiovascular complications are promoted by a loss of regulatory T cell (Treg)-mediated immunological tolerance to plaque antigens. Yet, the association between alterations of systemic Treg frequency and cardiovascular disease incidence remains uncertain. METHODS: A nested case-cohort study was conducted within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Heidelberg, comprising a random subcohort (n=778) and primary cases of myocardial infarction (MI, n=276) and ischemic stroke (n=151). Pre-diagnostic FOXP3+ Treg and total CD3+ T-lymphocyte (tTL) frequencies in blood were measured by epigenetic-based, quantitative real-time PCR-assisted cell counting. RESULTS: Multivariate, Prentice-weighted Cox regression analyses revealed that lower Treg/tTL ratios were not associated with the risk of either MI (lowest vs. highest sex-specific quartile; hazard ratio: 0.72, 95% confidence interval: 0.46 to 1.13; Ptrend=0.51) or stroke (HR: 0.90, 95% CI: 0.51 to 1.60; Ptrend=0.78). There were no correlations of Treg/tTL ratios with C-reactive protein, HbA1c, and various lipid parameters. CONCLUSIONS: Among middle-aged adults from the general population, imbalances in the relative frequency of Tregs within the total T cell compartment do not confer an increased risk of MI or stroke.
Type of Publication:
Journal article published