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BACKGROUND: Advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) are implicated in the pathogenesis of atherosclerotic vascular disease of diabetic and nondiabetic etiology. Recent research suggests that advanced glycation of ApoB contributes to the development of hyperlipidemia. AGE-specific receptors, expressed on vascular endothelium and mononuclear cells, may be involved in both the clearance of, and the inflammatory responses to AGEs. The aim of this study was to examine whether there is a relationship between serum AGE-ApoB and AGEs in arterial tissue of older normolipidemic nondiabetic patients with occlusive atherosclerotic disease, compared with age-matched and younger asymptomatic persons. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Serum AGE-ApoB was measured by ELISA in 21 cardiac bypass patients. Furthermore, an AGE-specific monoclonal antibody, and polyclonal antibodies against anti-AGE-receptor (anti-AGE-R) 1 and 2 were used to explore the localization and distribution of AGEs and AGE-R immunoreactivity (IR) in arterial segments excised from these patients. RESULTS: Serum AGE-ApoB levels were significantly elevated in the asymptomatic, older population, compared with those in young healthy persons (259 +/- 24 versus 180 +/- 21 AGE U/mg of ApoB, p < 0.01). Higher AGE-ApoB levels were observed in those patients with atherosclerosis (329 +/- 23 versus 259 +/- 24 AGE U/mg ApoB, p < 0.05). Comparisons of tissue AGE-collagen with serum AGE-ApoB levels showed a significant correlation (r = 0.707, p < 0.01). In early lesions, AGE-IR occurred mostly extracellularly. In fatty streaks and dense, cellular atheromatous lesions, AGE-IR was visible within lipid-containing smooth muscle cells and macrophages, while in late-stage, acellular plaques, AGE-IR occurred mostly extracellularly. AGE-R1 and -R2 were observed on vascular endothelial and smooth-muscle cells and on infiltrating mononuclear cells in the early-stage lesions, whereas in dense, late-stage plaques, they colocalized mostly with lipid-laden macrophages. On tissue sections, scoring of AGE-immunofluorescence correlated with tissue AGE and plasma AGE-ApoB. CONCLUSIONS: (1) The correlation between arterial tissue AGEs and circulating AGE-ApoB suggests a causal link between AGE modification of lipoproteins and atherosclerosis. AGE-specific receptors may contribute to this process. (2) Serum AGE-ApoB may serve to predict atherosclerosis in asymptomatic patients.