Hereditary Haemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT) or Rendu-Osler-Weber syndrome is an autosomal dominant disease characterized by local angiodysplasia affecting different organism districts. From a clinical viewpoint, HHT patients suffer from epistaxis, mucocutaneous telangiectases and arteriovenous malformations in various organs. Mutations in two known genes (ENG and ALK1) account for the majority of HHT patients. Additional loci are predicted, but the underlying genes are still to be identified. Moreover, SMAD4 mutations have been reported to cause JP-HHT combined syndrome. Both endoglin and ALK-1 bind to various growth factors in the context of the Transforming Growth Factors (TGF)-β superfamily and their expression is restricted to vascular endothelial cells and very few other cell types, such as activated monocytes. Endoglin and ALK1 mutations are thought to affect endothelial cell metabolism, angiogenesis and vascular remodelling, even if the precise mechanism leading to the HHT lesions is still obscure. Endoglin is also overexpressed in smooth muscle cells of atherosclerotic plaques, suggesting a role for this protein in atherogenesis and plaque progression, as well as in other cardiovascular diseases. Recently, we demonstrated that HHT adult patients display several deficits of both innate and adaptive immune system. Here, we investigated the function of immune cells in HHT pediatric patients. Our results clearly show that HHT children have a normal functionally immune system, and suggest that HHT patients become immunocompromised host during their lifetime, likely due to a precocious immunosenescence. Moreover, the relationship between immune responsiveness in HHT and atherosclerosis are discussed.
Keywords: Atherosclerosis, endoglin, endothelial cells, hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia, transforming growth factor-beta