Complex cellular and inflammatory interactions are involved in the progress of vascular diseases. Endothelial cells, upon exposure to cytokines, undergo profound alterations of function that involve gene expression and de novo protein synthesis. The functional reprogramming of endothelial cells by cytokines is of importance especially in patients with chronic vascular inflammation. The intercellular network of dendritic cells, T-lymphocytes, macrophages and smooth muscle cells generates a variety of stimulatory cytokines [e.g. TNF-α (tumour necrosis factor-α), IL (interleukin)-1, IL-6 and IFN-γ (interferon-γ)] and growth factors that promote the development of functional and structural vascular changes. High concentrations of proinflammatory cytokines increase oxidative stress, down-regulate eNOS (endothelial nitric oxide synthase) bioactivity and induce endothelial cell apoptosis. Chemoattractant cytokines [e.g. VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), TGF-β1 (transforming growth factor-β1) and IL-8] are important regulators of inflammation-induced angiogenesis and are directly modulated by nitric oxide. This review will focus on the vascular mechanisms orchestrated by cytokines and summarizes the current knowledge concerning the contribution of cytokines to cardiovascular diseases.

You do not currently have access to this content.