Aims Left atrial (LA) structural remodelling develops in rheumatic heart disease (RHD) according to the disease severity of the mitral valve and the presence of atrial fibrillation. Sustained active inflammation has been previously reported in the LA of patients with RHD, suggesting a direct role of cell-mediated immunity in the pathogenesis of LA remodelling. Dendritic cells (DCs) have a major antigen-presenting role, and are known as crucial modulators of innate and adaptive immunity. We investigated whether DCs are involved in the pathogenesis of LA remodelling in RHD. Methods and results Immunohistochemical analyses were performed using antibodies to CD11c, CD209 and CD80 as markers of myeloid DCs, migratory-active DCs, mature DCs and infiltrated inflammatory cells including T lymphocytes (CD3) and M1 (CD68; pro-inflammatory profile) and M2 (CD163; pro-resolution profile) macrophages. Furthermore, tenascin-C, an extracellular matrix (ECM) protein that appears during ECM remodelling and inflammatory response, was examined. Infiltrated myeloid DCs, migratory-active DCs, mature DCs and other inflammatory infiltrates including T lymphocytes and M1 and M2 macrophages, were significantly higher in the RHD group than the non-RHD group. The positive area fraction for tenascin-C was significantly higher in the RHD group than in the non-RHD group. Conclusion Our histological findings suggest that inflammation may persist long after a bout of rheumatic fever, ultimately leading to ECM remodelling. We identified and quantitatively assessed several subsets of DCs and other immunocompetent cells, and our results indicated that activation of DCs has some role in persistence of LA inflammation in patients with chronic RHD.
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