Aachen – German researchers have found a biomarker that indicates whether arteriosclerotic plaques will become dangerous (J Exp Med 207(2):391-404). Clumps from dissolving plaques can clog blood vessels, leading to stroke or heart attack. In a study with transgenic mice, a group headed by Ester Lutgens from RWTH University in Aachen has now discovered that interaction of the adaptor molecule TRAF6 with the CD40 ligand (CD40L) makes the inflammatory disease worse. Because TRAF6 binding switches on both the proinflammatory CD40-CD40L signalling cascade and plaque instability, researchers expect it to be a good biomarker as well as a potential drug target. Lutgens says her team is currently analysing the interaction surfaces of TRAF6. Her goal is to screen for specific compounds that stop development of dangerous plaques, while at the same time avoiding disturbances to overall immune responses.