Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

CD8+ T cell activation predominate early immune responses to hypercholesterolemia in Apoe-/- mice

Daniel Kolbus1*, Ornélia H Ramos1, Katarina E Berg1, Josefin Persson1, Maria Wigren1, Harry Björkbacka1, Gunilla Nordin Fredrikson12 and Jan Nilsson1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Sciences, Skane University Hospital Malmö, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

2 Faculty of Health and Society, Malmö University, Malmö, Sweden

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BMC Immunology 2010, 11:58  doi:10.1186/1471-2172-11-58

Published: 2 December 2010



It is well established that adaptive immune responses induced by hypercholesterolemia play an important role in the development of atherosclerosis, but the pathways involved remain to be fully characterized. In the present study we assessed immune responses to hypercholesterolemia induced by feeding Apoe-/- mice a high-fat diet for 4 or 8 weeks.


The primary immune response in lymph nodes draining the aortic root was an increased expression of interferon (IFN)-γ in CD8+CD28+ T cells, while an activation of IFN-γ expression in CD4+ T cells was observed only after 8 weeks of high-fat diet. Contrarily, spleen CD4+ T cells responded with a higher expression of IL-10. Spleen CD8+ T cells expressed both IFN-γ and IL-10 and showed enhanced proliferation when exposed to Concanavalin A. Plasma levels of IgG and IgM against oxidized LDL did not change, but the level of apolipoprotein B/IgM immune complexes was increased.


Hypercholesterolemia leads to unopposed activation of Th1 immune responses in lymph nodes draining atherosclerotic lesions, whereas Th1 activation in the spleen is balanced by a concomitant activation of Th2 cells. The activation of CD8+ T cells implies that hypercholesterolemia is associated with formation of cell autoantigens.