TLR (Toll-like receptor) activation-induced inflammatory responses are important in the progression of atherosclerosis. We previously showed that TLR-dependent leucocyte responsiveness is acutely attenuated following percutaneous coronary intervention or vascular surgery. Furthermore, cytokine release following whole-blood TLR-2 and TLR-4 stimulation is negatively correlated with fractional flow reserve, suggesting that chronic ischaemia can elicit an enhanced inflammatory response. In the present study, we assessed the association between leucocyte TLR-2 and TLR-4 responsiveness and pre-existent and inducible ischaemia in patients undergoing SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography)-MPI (myocardial perfusion imaging). TLR-2, TLR-4 and CD11b expression on monocytes were measured in blood samples that were obtained from 100 patients with suspected coronary artery disease before and after myocardial stress testing for SPECT-MPI. IL-8 (interleukin-8) levels were determined after whole-blood stimulation with Pam3Cys (TLR-2) and LPS (lipopolysaccharide; TLR-4). On the basis of SPECT-MPI, patients were categorized into three groups: reversible defect, irreversible defect and no defect. Myocardial stress induced a reduction in TLR-4 expression (2.46±0.21 compared with 2.17±0.16 arbitrary units, P=0.001) and CD11b expression (83.2±1.73 compared with 76.0±1.89 arbitrary units, P<0.001). TLR-induced IL-8 production before myocardial stress induction was not associated with the results of SPECT-MPI. However, a significant decrease in IL-8 production following TLR stimulation was observed after stress, which was more pronounced in patients with a reversible defect. In conclusion, inducible ischaemia is associated with a decrease in whole-blood TLR-2 and TLR-4 response. These results point to a regulating role of TLRs in order to prevent excessive inflammatory events known to occur during acute ischaemia.

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