▸ Oxidation-specific epitopes (OSE) are important danger associated molecular patterns. ▸ OSE are recognized by pattern recognition receptors of the innate immune system. ▸ Systemic chronic vascular inflammation is initiated by the accumulation of OSE. ▸ Atherosclerosis is perpetuated by maladaptive response of the immune system. ▸ Understanding this paradigm leads to new diagnostic approaches and modes of therapy.
Oxidation-specific epitopes (OSE), present on oxidized LDL (OxLDL), apoptotic cells, cell debris and modified proteins in the vessel wall, accumulate in response to hypercholesterolemia, and generate potent pro-inflammatory, disease-specific antigens. They represent an important class of ‘danger associated molecular patterns’ (DAMPs), against which a concerted innate immune response is directed. OSE are recognized by innate ‘pattern recognition receptors’, such as scavenger receptors present on dendritic cells and monocyte/macrophages, as well as by innate proteins, such as IgM natural antibodies and soluble proteins, such as C-reactive protein and complement factor H. These innate immune responses provide a first line of defense against atherosclerosis-specific DAMPs, and engage adaptive immune responses, provided by T and B-2 cells, which provide a more specific and definitive response. Such immune responses are ordinarily directed to remove foreign pathogens, such as those found on microbial pathogens, but when persistent or maladaptive, lead to host damage. In this context, atherosclerosis can be considered as a systemic chronic inflammatory disease initiated by the accumulation of OSE type DAMPs and perpetuated by maladaptive response of the innate and adaptive immune system. Understanding this paradigm leads to new approaches to defining cardiovascular risk and suggests new modes of therapy. Therefore, OSE have become potential targets of diagnostic and therapeutic agents. Human and murine OSE-targeting antibodies have been developed and are now being used as biomarkers in human studies and experimentally in translational applications of non-invasive molecular imaging of oxidation-rich plaques and immunotherapeutics.