Aims: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death worldwide despite improvements in the treatment of atherosclerosis, an inflammatory disease and major underlying cause of CVD. Monocytes, an innate immune cell type, are linked to CVD progression; however, given their heterogeneity, the association between distinct monocyte subsets and increased risk of CVD remains unclear. This study investigated the association between peripheral monocyte subpopulation numbers and carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT), a sensitive measure of CVD risk, in a cohort of adults recruited from the general population.
Methods: We used clinical data and peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) specimens from 67 individuals. cIMT was measured by high-resolution, B-mode, ultrasound images of the right carotid artery. PBMCs were stained with conjugated monoclonal antibodies to define monocyte subpopulations based on CD14 and CD16 co-expressions into classical (CD14＋＋CD16－), intermediate/inflammatory (CD14＋＋CD16＋), and non-classical/patrolling (CD14low/＋CD16＋＋) monocytes.
Results: We found a higher intermediate monocyte count was significantly correlated with increased right common carotid artery (RCCA) and right carotid bifurcation (RBIF) intima-media thickness (IMT) (p=0.004 and 0.006,respectively), even after adjusting for CVD-associated clinical data (p=0.006 and 0.004, respectively).
Conclusion: Our study demonstrated a strong correlation between inflammatory monocyte counts and cIMT. These results suggest that, in the general population, there is a relationship between intermediate monocyte expansion and elevated predictors for CVD risk, and intermediate monocytes may be involved in the development of atherosclerosis and metabolic diseases. Strategies targeting inflammatory monocytes may be needed to slow CVD progression.