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BACKGROUND: Inflammation and matrix degradation are the hallmarks of high-risk atherosclerosis that leads to myocardial infarction and stroke. Toll-like receptors (TLRs), key players in innate immunity, are upregulated in atherosclerotic lesions, but their functional role in human atherosclerosis is unknown. We explored the effects of blocking TLR-2, TLR-4, and myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88), a signaling adaptor shared by most TLRs and interleukin-1 receptor (IL-1R), in an in vitro model of human atherosclerosis. METHODS AND RESULTS: Carotid endarterectomies were obtained from patients with symptomatic carotid disease. Cells were isolated via enzymatic tissue dissociation and cultured in the presence or absence of TLR signaling blockers. A dominant-negative form of MyD88 (MyD88(DN)) decreased the production of monocyte chemotactic protein-1/CCL2 (P=0.000), IL-8/CXCL8 (P=0.006), IL-6 (P=0.002), matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1; P=0.002), and MMP-3 (P=0.000), as well as nuclear factor-kappaB activation (P<0.05) in atheroma cell cultures. IL-1R antagonist, TLR-4 blocking antibodies, or overexpression of a dominant-negative form of the TLR-4 signaling adaptor TRIF-related adaptor molecule reduced nuclear factor-kappaB activity but did not have a broad impact on the production of the mediators studied. In contrast, TLR-2 neutralizing antibodies inhibited nuclear factor-kappaB activation (P<0.05) and significantly reduced monocyte chemotactic protein-1/CCL2 (P=0.000), IL-8/CXCL8 (P=0.009), IL-6 (P=0.000), and MMP-1 (P=0.000), MMP-2 (P=0.004), MMP-3 (P=0.000), and MMP-9 (P=0.006) production. CONCLUSIONS: Our data indicate that TLR-2 signaling through MyD88 plays a predominant role in inflammation and matrix degradation in human atherosclerosis. TLR-2 blockade may represent a therapeutic strategy for atherosclerosis and its complications.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





2462 - 2469


Atherosclerosis, Carotid Artery Diseases, Cells, Cultured, Extracellular Matrix, Humans, Inflammation Mediators, Matrix Metalloproteinases, Myeloid Differentiation Factor 88, NF-kappa B, Signal Transduction, Toll-Like Receptor 2