Heterogeneity of peripheral blood monocytes, endothelial dysfunction and subclinical atherosclerosis in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus

T P Mikołajczyk, G Osmenda, B Batko, G Wilk, M Krezelok, D Skiba, T Sliwa, J R Pryjma, T J Guzik
Lupus 2016, 25 (1): 18-27

BACKGROUND: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is characterized by increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. SLE patients have increased prevalence of subclinical atherosclerosis, although the mechanisms of this observation remain unclear. Considering the emerging role of monocytes in atherosclerosis, we aimed to investigate the relationship between subclinical atherosclerosis, endothelial dysfunction and the phenotype of peripheral blood monocytes in SLE patients.

METHODS: We characterized the phenotype of monocyte subsets defined by the expression of CD14 and CD16 in 42 patients with SLE and 42 non-SLE controls. Using ultrasonography, intima-media thickness (IMT) of carotid arteries and brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD) as well as nitroglycerin-induced dilation (NMD) were assessed.

RESULTS: Patients with SLE had significantly, but only modestly, increased IMT when compared with non-SLE controls (median (25th/75th percentile) 0.65 (0.60/0.71) mm vs 0.60 (0.56/0.68) mm; p < 0.05). Importantly, in spite of early atherosclerotic complications in the studied SLE group, marked endothelial dysfunction was observed. CD14dimCD16+proinflammatory cell subpopulation was positively correlated with IMT in SLE patients. This phenomenon was not observed in control individuals. Interestingly, endothelial dysfunction assessed by FMD was not correlated with any of the studied monocyte subsets.

CONCLUSIONS: Our observations suggest that CD14dimCD16+monocytes are associated with subclinical atherosclerosis in SLE, although the mechanism appears to be independent of endothelial dysfunction.

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