Sex differences in T Cells in hypertension

Ashlee J. Tipton, Jennifer C. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Purpose Hypertension is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and end-organ damage. There is a sex difference in blood pressure (BP) that begins in adolescence and continues into adulthood, in which men have a higher prevalence of hypertension compared with women until the sixth decade of life. Less than 50% of hypertensive adults in the United States manage to control their BP to recommended levels using current therapeutic options, and women are more likely than are men to have uncontrolled high BP. This, is despite the facts that more women compared with men are aware that they have hypertension and that women are more likely to seek treatment for the disease. Novel therapeutic targets need to be identified in both sexes to increase the percentage of hypertensive individuals with controlled BP. The purpose of this article was to review the available literature on the role of T cells in BP control in both sexes, and the potential therapeutic application/implications of targeting immune cells in hypertension. Methods A search of PubMed was conducted to determine the impact of sex on T cell-mediated control of BP. The search terms included sex, gender, estrogen, testosterone, inflammation, T cells, T regulatory cells, Th17 cells, hypertension, and blood pressure. Additional data were included from our laboratory examinations of cytokine expression in the kidneys of male and female spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRs) and differential gene expression in both the renal cortex and mesenteric arterial bed of male and female SHRs. Findings There is a growing scientific literature base regarding the role of T cells in the pathogenesis of hypertension and BP control; however, the majority of these studies have been performed exclusively in males, despite the fact that both men and women develop hypertension. There is increasing evidence that although T cells also mediate BP in females, there are distinct differences in both the T-cell profile and the functional impact of sex differences in T cells on cardiovascular health, although more work is needed to better define the relative impact of different T-cell subtypes on BP in both sexes. Implications The challenge now is to fully understand the molecular mechanisms by which the immune system regulates BP and how the different components of the immune system interact so that specific mechanisms can be targeted therapeutically without compromising natural immune defenses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1882-1900
Number of pages19
JournalClinical Therapeutics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • T regulatory cell
  • Th17 cell
  • female
  • inflammation
  • male

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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