Macrophages are a functionally heterogeneous group of immune cells abundant in atherosclerotic plaques. Macrophages expressing CD163 are associated with intraplaque hemorrhage and have previously been considered atheroprotective. However, in a recent study CD163-deficient atherosclerotic ApoE−/− mice exhibited smaller and less complex plaques, suggesting a proatherogenic role of CD163. Previous smaller studies on CD163+ macrophages and plaque stability in humans have yielded diverging results. Here we assessed the association of CD163+ cells to plaque vulnerability in a large cohort of human carotid plaques. CD163 protein expression was analyzed by immunohistochemistry in 200 human carotid plaques removed by endarterectomy from 103 patients with and 93 patients without cerebrovascular symptoms. Furthermore, CD163 mRNA expression was analyzed in 66 of the plaques. Both protein and mRNA expression of CD163 was higher in plaques from symptomatic patients and in plaques with high vulnerability index. CD163+ macrophages were primarily found in shoulder regions and in the center of the plaques. The present data show that CD163 is associated with increased plaque vulnerability in human carotid plaques, supporting the notion that CD163+ macrophages could contribute to clinical events.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14362
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Cardiac and Cardiovascular Systems


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