Immunologic dysfunction was recently found to be one of the most important mechanisms underlying the initiation and development of atherosclerosis. Thymus involution can contribute to immune disturbance and disequilibrium of T-cell subsets. This study aimed to explore whether recent thymic emigration (RTE) is impaired in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD).
Content of signal-joint T cell receptor excision circles (sj-TREC) in T lymphocytes, a molecular marker of RTE, was assessed among CAD patients and age-matched controls. Monochrome multiplex quantitative PCR method was used to assess the samples' telomere length in order to exclude the potential influence of T cell proliferation on the dilution of sj-TREC. Patients were grouped according to Gensini score (GS) (low, GS ＜18; intermediate, GS 18-41; high, GS ＞41). Ordinary logistic regression models were used to determine potential risk factors for CAD and GS tertiles.
Average copy numbers of sj-TREC per 10(6) T lymphocytes among patients with unstable angina, stable angina, and controls were 726±429, 1213±465, and 1795±838, respectively (P＜0.001). However, there was no significant difference in telomere length among groups. Moreover, the content of sj-TREC in the high GS group was most significantly reduced than the low GS group (P＜0.001). Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that lower sj-TREC was independently associated with the progression of CAD (OR=0.44, P＜0.001) and higher GS (OR=0.4, P＜0.001).
Impaired RTE could be partly responsible for CAD development. Mechanisms may be involved in the disturbance of T lymphocyte compartment and interruption of maintained immune tolerance resulting from thymus involution.