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Elevated circulating effector memory T cells but similar levels of regulatory T cells in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease

  • Sara Rattik
  • Daniel Engelbertsen
  • Maria Wigren
  • Irena Ljungcrantz
  • Gerd Östling
  • Margaretha Persson
  • Gunilla Nordin Fredrikson
  • Eva Bengtsson
  • Jan Nilsson
  • Harry Björkbacka
Publishing year: 2019
Language: English
Pages: 270-280
Publication/Series: Diabetes and Vascular Disease Research
Volume: 16
Issue: 3
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: SAGE Publications

Abstract english

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, but the mechanism through which diabetes contributes to cardiovascular disease development remains incompletely understood. In this study, we compared the association of circulating regulatory T cells, naïve T cells, effector memory T cells or central memory T cells with cardiovascular disease in patients with and without type 2 diabetes mellitus. Percentage of circulating T cell subsets was analysed by flow cytometry in type 2 diabetes mellitus subjects with and without prevalent cardiovascular disease as well as in non-diabetic subjects with and without prevalent cardiovascular disease from the Malmö SUMMIT cohort. Subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus had elevated percentages of effector memory T cells (CD4+CD45RO+CD62L; 21.8% ± 11.2% vs 17.0% ± 9.2% in non-type 2 diabetes mellitus, p < 0.01) and central memory T cells (CD4+CD45RO+CD62L+; 38.0% ± 10.7% vs 36.0% ± 9.5% in non-type 2 diabetes mellitus, p < 0.01). In contrast, the frequency of naïve T cells was reduced (CD4+CD45ROCD62L+, 35.0% ± 16.5% vs 42.9% ± 14.4% in non-type 2 diabetes mellitus, p < 0.001). The proportion of effector memory T cells was increased in type 2 diabetes mellitus subjects with cardiovascular disease as compared to those without (26.4% ± 11.5% vs 18.4% ± 10.2%, p < 0.05), while no difference in regulatory T cells was observed between these two patient groups. This study identifies effector memory T cells as a potential cellular biomarker for cardiovascular disease among subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus, suggesting a state of exacerbated immune activation in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients with cardiovascular disease.


  • Cardiac and Cardiovascular Systems
  • Endocrinology and Diabetes
  • adaptive immunity
  • cardiovascular disease
  • memory T cells
  • regulatory T cells
  • Type 2 diabetes


  • Cardiovascular Research - Immunity and Atherosclerosis
  • Internal Medicine - Epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Research - Matrix and Inflammation in Atherosclerosis
  • Cardiovascular Research - Cellular Metabolism and Inflammation
  • ISSN: 1479-1641
E-mail: jan [dot] nilsson [at] med [dot] lu [dot] se

Lund University Diabetes Centre, CRC, SUS Malmö, Jan Waldenströms gata 35, House 91:12. SE-214 28 Malmö. Telephone: +46 40 39 10 00