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1.  ITGA3 and ITGB4 expression biomarkers estimate the risks of locoregional and hematogenous dissemination of oral squamous cell carcinoma 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:410.
Molecular biomarkers are essential for monitoring treatment effects, predicting prognosis, and improving survival rate in oral squamous cell carcinoma. This study sought to verify the effectiveness of two integrin gene expression ratios as biomarkers.
Gene expression analyses of integrin α3 (ITGA3), integrin β4 (ITGB4), CD9 antigen (CD9), and plakoglobin (JUP) by quantitative real-time PCR were conducted on total RNA from 270 OSCC cases. The logrank test, Cox proportional hazards model, and Kaplan-Meier estimates were performed on the gene expression ratios of ITGA3/CD9 and ITGB4/JUP and on the clinicopathological parameters for major clinical events.
A high rate (around 80%) of lymph node metastasis was found in cases with a high ITGA3/CD9 ratio (high-ITGA3/CD9) and invasive histopathology (YK4). Primary site recurrence (PSR) was associated with high-ITGA3/CD9, T3-4 (TNM class), and positive margin, indicating that PSR is synergistically influenced by treatment failure and biological malignancy. A high ITGB4/JUP ratio (high-ITGB4/JUP) was revealed to be a primary contributor to distant metastasis without the involvement of clinicopathological factors, suggesting intervention of a critical step dependent on the function of the integrin β4 subunit. Kaplan-Meier curves revealed positive margin as a lethal treatment consequence in high-ITGA3/CD9 and YK4 double-positive cases.
Two types of metastatic trait were found in OSCC: locoregional dissemination, which was reflected by high-ITGA3/CD9, and distant metastasis through hematogenous dissemination, uniquely distinguished by high-ITGB4/JUP. The clinical significance of the integrin biomarkers implies that biological mechanisms such as cancer cell motility and anchorage-independent survival are vital for OSCC recurrence and metastasis.
PMCID: PMC3844399  PMID: 24006899
Squamous cell carcinoma; Biomarker; Metastasis; Integrin alpha3; Integrin beta4
2.  Restrictive loss of plakoglobin in cardiomyocytes leads to arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy 
Human Molecular Genetics  2011;20(23):4582-4596.
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is an inheritable myocardial disorder associated with fibrofatty replacement of myocardium and ventricular arrhythmia. A subset of ARVC is categorized as Naxos disease, which is characterized by ARVC and a cutaneous disorder. A homozygous loss-of-function mutation of the Plakoglobin (Jup) gene, which encodes a major component of the desmosome and the adherens junction, had been identified in Naxos patients, although the underlying mechanism remained elusive. We generated Jup mutant mice by ablating Jup in cardiomyocytes. Jup mutant mice largely recapitulated the clinical manifestation of human ARVC: ventricular dilation and aneurysm, cardiac fibrosis, cardiac dysfunction and spontaneous ventricular arrhythmias. Ultra-structural analyses revealed that desmosomes were absent in Jup mutant myocardia, whereas adherens junctions and gap junctions were preserved. We found that ventricular arrhythmias were associated with progressive cardiomyopathy and fibrosis in Jup mutant hearts. Massive cell death contributed to the cardiomyocyte dropout in Jup mutant hearts. Despite the increase of β-catenin at adherens junctions in Jup mutant cardiomyoicytes, the Wnt/β-catenin-mediated signaling was not altered. Transforming growth factor-beta-mediated signaling was found significantly elevated in Jup mutant cardiomyocytes at the early stage of cardiomyopathy, suggesting an important pathogenic pathway for Jup-related ARVC. These findings have provided further insights for the pathogenesis of ARVC and potential therapeutic interventions.
PMCID: PMC3209829  PMID: 21880664
3.  Proteomic Biomarkers of Atherosclerosis 
Biomarker Insights  2008;3:101-113.
Biomarkers provide a powerful approach to understanding the spectrum of cardiovascular diseases. They have application in screening, diagnostic, prognostication, prediction of recurrences and monitoring of therapy. The “omics” tool are becoming very useful in the development of new biomarkers in cardiovascular diseases. Among them, proteomics is especially fitted to look for new proteins in health and disease and is playing a significant role in the development of new diagnostic tools in cardiovascular diagnosis and prognosis. This review provides an overview of progress in applying proteomics to atherosclerosis. First, we describe novel proteins identified analysing atherosclerotic plaques directly. Careful analysis of proteins within the atherosclerotic vascular tissue can provide a repertoire of proteins involved in vascular remodelling and atherogenesis. Second, we discuss recent data concerning proteins secreted by atherosclerotic plaques. The definition of the atheroma plaque secretome resides in that proteins secreted by arteries can be very good candidates of novel biomarkers. Finally we describe proteins that have been differentially expressed (versus controls) by individual cells which constitute atheroma plaques (endothelial cells, vascular smooth muscle cells, macrophages and foam cells) as well as by circulating cells (monocytes, platelets) or novel biomarkers present in plasma.
PMCID: PMC2688368  PMID: 19578499
atheroma plaque; atherosclerosis; biomarkers; proteomics; cardiovascular diseases
4.  Secreted proteins from carotid endarterectomy: an untargeted approach to disclose molecular clues of plaque progression 
Atherosclerosis is the main cause of morbidity and mortality in Western countries and carotid plaque rupture is associated to acute events and responsible of 15-20% of all ischemic strokes. Several proteomics approaches have been up to now used to elucidate the molecular mechanisms involved in plaque formation as well as to identify markers of pathology severity for early diagnosis or target of therapy. The aim of this study was to characterize the plaque secretome. The advantage of this approach is that secretome mimics the in vivo condition and implies a reduced complexity compared to the whole tissue proteomics allowing the detection of under-represented potential biomarkers.
Secretomes from carotid endarterectomy specimens of 14 patients were analyzed by a liquid chromatography approach coupled with label free mass spectrometry. Differential expression of proteins released from plaques and from their downstream distal side segments were evaluated in each specimen. Results were validated by Western blot analysis and ELISA assays. Histology and immunohistochemistry were performed to characterize plaques and to localise the molecular factors highlighted by proteomics.
A total of 463 proteins were identified and 31 proteins resulted differentially secreted from plaques and corresponding downstream segments. A clear-cut distinction in the distribution of cellular- and extracellular-derived proteins, evidently related to the higher cellularity of distal side segments, was observed along the longitudinal axis of carotid endarterectomy samples. The expressions of thrombospondin-1, vitamin D binding protein, and vinculin, as examples of extracellular and intracellular proteins, were immunohistologically compared between adjacent segments and validated by antibody assays. ELISA assays of plasma samples from 34 patients and 10 healthy volunteers confirmed a significantly higher concentration of thrombospondin-1 and vitamin D binding protein in atherosclerotic subjects.
Taking advantage of the optimized workflow, a detailed protein profile related to carotid plaque secretome has been produced which may assist and improve biomarker discovery of molecular factors in blood. Distinctive signatures of proteins secreted by adjacent segments of carotid plaques were evidenced and they may help discriminating markers of plaque complication from those of plaque growth.
PMCID: PMC3853772  PMID: 24131807
Atherosclerosis; Carotid plaques; Proteomics; Secretome
5.  Loss of Cadherin-Binding Proteins β-Catenin and Plakoglobin in the Heart Leads to Gap Junction Remodeling and Arrhythmogenesis 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2012;32(6):1056-1067.
Arrhythmic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is a hereditary heart muscle disease that causes sudden cardiac death (SCD) in young people. Almost half of ARVC patients have a mutation in genes encoding cell adhesion proteins of the desmosome, including plakoglobin (JUP). We previously reported that cardiac tissue-specific plakoglobin (PG) knockout (PG CKO) mice have no apparent conduction abnormality and survive longer than expected. Importantly, the PG homolog, β-catenin (CTNNB1), showed increased association with the gap junction protein connexin43 (Cx43) in PG CKO hearts. To determine whether β-catenin is required to maintain cardiac conduction in the absence of PG, we generated mice lacking both PG and β-catenin specifically in the heart (i.e., double knockout [DKO]). The DKO mice exhibited cardiomyopathy, fibrous tissue replacement, and conduction abnormalities resulting in SCD. Loss of the cadherin linker proteins resulted in dissolution of the intercalated disc (ICD) structure. Moreover, Cx43-containing gap junction plaques were reduced at the ICD, consistent with the arrhythmogenicity of the DKO hearts. Finally, ambulatory electrocardiogram monitoring captured the abrupt onset of spontaneous lethal ventricular arrhythmia in the DKO mice. In conclusion, these studies demonstrate that the N-cadherin-binding partners, PG and β-catenin, are indispensable for maintaining mechanoelectrical coupling in the heart.
PMCID: PMC3295003  PMID: 22252313
6.  SOX4 interacts with plakoglobin in a Wnt3a-dependent manner in prostate cancer cells 
BMC Cell Biology  2011;12:50.
SOX4 is a developmental transcription factor that is required for differentiation and proliferation in multiple tissues. SOX4 is overexpressed in many human malignancies, but the precise role of SOX4 in cancer progression is still not well understood. Thus, the identification of additional SOX4 binding partners is essential for elucidating the mechanism of SOX4-mediated effects in cancer progression.
Here, we have adapted a one-step affinity purification method that enables rapid purification of SOX4 complexes via intracellular biotinylation of the amino-terminus of SOX4 to perform large-scale proteomics analysis. We have discovered that junction plakoglobin (JUP) interacts with SOX4 in both the cytosol and the nucleus and the interaction between SOX4 and plakoglobin is significantly increased when prostate and breast cancer cells are stimulated with WNT3A. Interactions between SOX4 and plakoglobin were further enhanced by the nuclear export inhibitor leptomycin B (LMB), suggesting that plakoglobin promotes nuclear export of SOX4. The SOX4-plakoglobin complex affected the expression of Wnt pathway target genes and SOX4 downstream targets, such as AXIN2, DICER1, and DHX9. In addition, SOX4 DNA binding activity to the promoters of DICER1, AXIN2, DHX9 and SOX4 itself was reduced by conditions that promote SOX4-plakoglobin complex formation. Conditions that enhanced SOX4-plakoglobin interactions resulted in reduced transcriptional activity of β-catenin luciferase reporters.
These data suggest that this newly identified interaction between SOX4 and plakoglobin is inhibitory and provides new insights into the role of SOX4 in key pathways in cell proliferation, development, and cancer progression.
PMCID: PMC3227594  PMID: 22098624
7.  RANTES/CCL5 and Risk for Coronary Events: Results from the MONICA/KORA Augsburg Case-Cohort, Athero-Express and CARDIoGRAM Studies 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e25734.
The chemokine RANTES (regulated on activation, normal T-cell expressed and secreted)/CCL5 is involved in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease in mice, whereas less is known in humans. We hypothesised that its relevance for atherosclerosis should be reflected by associations between CCL5 gene variants, RANTES serum concentrations and protein levels in atherosclerotic plaques and risk for coronary events.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a case-cohort study within the population-based MONICA/KORA Augsburg studies. Baseline RANTES serum levels were measured in 363 individuals with incident coronary events and 1,908 non-cases (mean follow-up: 10.2±4.8 years). Cox proportional hazard models adjusting for age, sex, body mass index, metabolic factors and lifestyle factors revealed no significant association between RANTES and incident coronary events (HR [95% CI] for increasing RANTES tertiles 1.0, 1.03 [0.75–1.42] and 1.11 [0.81–1.54]). None of six CCL5 single nucleotide polymorphisms and no common haplotype showed significant associations with coronary events. Also in the CARDIoGRAM study (>22,000 cases, >60,000 controls), none of these CCL5 SNPs was significantly associated with coronary artery disease. In the prospective Athero-Express biobank study, RANTES plaque levels were measured in 606 atherosclerotic lesions from patients who underwent carotid endarterectomy. RANTES content in atherosclerotic plaques was positively associated with macrophage infiltration and inversely associated with plaque calcification. However, there was no significant association between RANTES content in plaques and risk for coronary events (mean follow-up 2.8±0.8 years).
High RANTES plaque levels were associated with an unstable plaque phenotype. However, the absence of associations between (i) RANTES serum levels, (ii) CCL5 genotypes and (iii) RANTES content in carotid plaques and either coronary artery disease or incident coronary events in our cohorts suggests that RANTES may not be a novel coronary risk biomarker. However, the potential relevance of RANTES levels in platelet-poor plasma needs to be investigated in further studies.
PMCID: PMC3232218  PMID: 22162987
8.  Neutrophil/Lymphocyte Ratio Is Associated with Non-Calcified Plaque Burden in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e108183.
Elevations in soluble markers of inflammation and changes in leukocyte subset distribution are frequently reported in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD). Lately, the neutrophil/lymphocyte ratio has emerged as a potential marker of both CAD severity and cardiovascular prognosis.
The aim of the study was to investigate whether neutrophil/lymphocyte ratio and other immune-inflammatory markers were related to plaque burden, as assessed by coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA), in patients with CAD.
Twenty patients with non-ST-elevation acute coronary syndrome (NSTE-ACS) and 30 patients with stable angina (SA) underwent CCTA at two occasions, immediately prior to coronary angiography and after three months. Atherosclerotic plaques were classified as calcified, mixed and non-calcified. Blood samples were drawn at both occasions. Leukocyte subsets were analyzed by white blood cell differential counts and flow cytometry. Levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin(IL)-6 were measured in plasma. Blood analyses were also performed in 37 healthy controls.
Plaque variables did not change over 3 months, total plaque burden being similar in NSTE-ACS and SA. However, non-calcified/total plaque ratio was higher in NSTE-ACS, 0.25(0.09–0.44) vs 0.11(0.00–0.25), p<0.05. At admission, levels of monocytes, neutrophils, neutrophil/lymphocyte ratios, CD4+ T cells, CRP and IL-6 were significantly elevated, while levels of NK cells were reduced, in both patient groups as compared to controls. After 3 months, levels of monocytes, neutrophils, neutrophil/lymphocyte ratios and CD4+ T cells remained elevated in patients. Neutrophil/lymphocyte ratios and neutrophil counts correlated significantly with numbers of non-calcified plaques and also with non-calcified/total plaque ratio (r = 0.403, p = 0.010 and r = 0.382, p = 0.024, respectively), but not with total plaque burden.
Among immune-inflammatory markers in NSTE-ACS and SA patients, neutrophil counts and neutrophil/lymphocyte ratios were significantly correlated with non-calcified plaques. Data suggest that these easily measured biomarkers reflect the burden of vulnerable plaques in CAD.
PMCID: PMC4182451  PMID: 25268632
9.  CXCL4 Plasma Levels Are Not Associated with the Extent of Coronary Artery Disease or with Coronary Plaque Morphology 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(11):e0141693.
CXCL4 is a platelet chemokine released at micromolar concentrations upon platelet activation. CXCL4 has been shown to promote atherogenesis by various mechanisms. However, data on CXCL4 plasma levels in patients with coronary artery disease are largely inconclusive. Computed coronary artery angiography (CCTA) represents an excellent tool to quantify and characterize coronary atherosclerotic plaques. We hypothesized that increased CXCL4 plasma levels may be associated with features of plaque instability resulting in adverse cardiovascular events. Specifically, we sought to determine whether CXCL4 levels are correlated with specific features of coronary artery disease including (1) plaque volume, (2) calcium score, (3) degree of stenosis, or (4) vascular remodeling.
Methods and Results
CXCL4 plasma levels were measured by ELISA in 217 patients undergoing CCTA for suspected CAD (mean age 64.2 ± 9.4 years, 107 (49.3%) male). Mean CXCL4 plasma levels were 12.5 ± 4.6 ng/mL. There was no significant correlation between CXCL4 levels and any clinical or demographic parameters including cardiovascular risk factors. CXCL4 plasma levels did not differ between patient with or without coronary artery disease (CAD: 12.5 ± 4.5 ng/ml, no CAD: 12.5 ± 4.8 ng/ml). Neither univariate nor multivariate analysis showed an association between CXCL4 levels and plaque volume, total calcium score, degree of stenosis, or vascular remodeling. Subgroup analysis of patients with CAD as confirmed by CCTA did not show any association of CXCL4 levels with the extent of CAD.
While CXCL4 may be present and active within the arterial wall, local increase of CXCL4 may not translate into systemically elevated CXCL4 levels. Further studies will have to test whether CXCL4 may still represent a suitable therapeutic target in human atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC4629911  PMID: 26524462
10.  A MMP derived versican neo-epitope is elevated in plasma from patients with atherosclerotic heart disease 
Extracellular matrix remodelling is a prerequisite for plaque rupture in atherosclerotic lesion. Versican, an extracellular matrix proteoglycan present in normal and atherosclerotic arteries is a substrate for matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) present in macrophage rich areas. The aim of the current study was to develop an immunoassay to detect a specific MMP-12 derived versican degradation fragment (VCANM) and assess its potential as a biomarker for extracellular matrix remodelling in atherosclerosis. A mouse monoclonal antibody raised against VCANM was used for the development of a competitive ELISA for detection of the fragment in plasma. VCANM was measured in plasma of patients with different levels of heart diseases. Patients experiencing I) acute coronary syndrome, II) stable ischemic heart disease and III) demonstrating high levels of coronary calcium deposits had significantly higher plasma levels of VCANM compared to a control group of individuals with no detectable coronary calcium deposits. VCANM was also detected by immunohistochemistry in coronary artery sections of patients with different degrees of atherosclerosis. VCANM ability to separate patients with atherosclerotic diseases from healthy individuals suggested VCANM as a potential biomarker for the pathological arterial matrix remodelling associated with atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3609693  PMID: 23573348
Versican; acute coronary syndrome; atherosclerosis; biomarker; matrix; remodeling; neo-epitope
11.  Increased platelet deposition on atherosclerotic coronary arteries. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1994;93(2):615-632.
A ruptured atherosclerotic plaque leads to exposure of deeper layers of the plaque to flowing blood and subsequently to thrombus formation. In contrast to the wealth of data on the occurrence of thrombi, little is known about the reasons why an atherosclerotic plaque is thrombogenic. One of the reasons is the relative inaccessibility of the atherosclerotic plaque. We have circumvented this problem by using 6-microns cryostat cross sections of human coronary arteries. These sections were mounted on coverslips that were exposed to flowing blood in a rectangular perfusion chamber. In normal-appearing arteries, platelet deposition was seen on the luminal side of the intima and on the adventitia. In atherosclerotic arteries, strongly increased platelet deposition was seen on the connective tissue of specific parts of the atherosclerotic plaque. The central lipid core of an advanced plaque was not reactive towards platelets. The results indicate that the atherosclerotic plaque by itself is more thrombogenic than the normal vessel wall. To study the cause of the increased thrombus formation on the atherosclerotic plaque, perfusion studies were combined with immunohistochemical studies. Immunohistochemical studies of adhesive proteins showed enrichment of collagen types I, III, V, and VI, vitronectin, fibronectin, fibrinogen/fibrin, and thrombospondin in the atherosclerotic plaque. Laminin and collagen type IV were not enriched. von Willebrand Factor (vWF) was not present in the plaque. The pattern of increased platelet deposition in serial cross sections corresponded best with areas in which collagen types I and III were enriched, but there were also areas in the plaque where both collagens were enriched but no increased reactivity was seen. Inhibition of platelet adhesion with a large range of antibodies or specific inhibitors showed that vWF from plasma and collagen types I and/or III in the plaque were involved. Fibronectin from plasma and fibronectin, fibrinogen, laminin, and thrombospondin in the vessel wall had no effect on platelet adhesion. We conclude that the increased thrombogenicity of atherosclerotic lesions is due to changes in quantity and nature of collagen types I and/or III.
PMCID: PMC293885  PMID: 8113399
12.  Evaluating the Quality of Research into a Single Prognostic Biomarker: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of 83 Studies of C-Reactive Protein in Stable Coronary Artery Disease 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(6):e1000286.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis of 83 prognostic studies of C-reactive protein in coronary disease, Hemingway and colleagues find substantial biases, preventing them from drawing clear conclusions relating to the use of this marker in clinical practice.
Systematic evaluations of the quality of research on a single prognostic biomarker are rare. We sought to evaluate the quality of prognostic research evidence for the association of C-reactive protein (CRP) with fatal and nonfatal events among patients with stable coronary disease.
Methods and Findings
We searched MEDLINE (1966 to 2009) and EMBASE (1980 to 2009) and selected prospective studies of patients with stable coronary disease, reporting a relative risk for the association of CRP with death and nonfatal cardiovascular events. We included 83 studies, reporting 61,684 patients and 6,485 outcome events. No study reported a prespecified statistical analysis protocol; only two studies reported the time elapsed (in months or years) between initial presentation of symptomatic coronary disease and inclusion in the study. Studies reported a median of seven items (of 17) from the REMARK reporting guidelines, with no evidence of change over time.
The pooled relative risk for the top versus bottom third of CRP distribution was 1.97 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.78–2.17), with substantial heterogeneity (I2 = 79.5). Only 13 studies adjusted for conventional risk factors (age, sex, smoking, obesity, diabetes, and low-density lipoprotein [LDL] cholesterol) and these had a relative risk of 1.65 (95% CI 1.39–1.96), I2 = 33.7. Studies reported ten different ways of comparing CRP values, with weaker relative risks for those based on continuous measures. Adjusting for publication bias (for which there was strong evidence, Egger's p<0.001) using a validated method reduced the relative risk to 1.19 (95% CI 1.13–1.25). Only two studies reported a measure of discrimination (c-statistic). In 20 studies the detection rate for subsequent events could be calculated and was 31% for a 10% false positive rate, and the calculated pooled c-statistic was 0.61 (0.57–0.66).
Multiple types of reporting bias, and publication bias, make the magnitude of any independent association between CRP and prognosis among patients with stable coronary disease sufficiently uncertain that no clinical practice recommendations can be made. Publication of prespecified statistical analytic protocols and prospective registration of studies, among other measures, might help improve the quality of prognostic biomarker research.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death among adults in developed countries. With age, fatty deposits called atherosclerotic plaques coat the walls of the arteries, the vessels that carry blood to the body's organs. Because they narrow the arteries, atherosclerotic plaques restrict blood flow. If plaques form in the arteries that feed the heart, the result is coronary artery disease, the symptoms of which include shortness of breath and chest pains (angina). If these symptoms only occur during exertion, the condition is called stable coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease can cause potentially fatal heart attacks (myocardial infarctions). A heart attack occurs when a plaque ruptures and a blood clot completely blocks the artery, thereby killing part of the heart. Smoking, high blood pressure, high blood levels of cholesterol (a type of fat), diabetes, and being overweight are risk factors for coronary artery disease. Treatments for the condition include lifestyle changes and medications that lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol. Narrowed arteries can also be widened using a device called a stent or surgically bypassed.
Why Was This Study Done?
Clinicians can predict whether a patient with coronary artery disease is likely to have a heart attack by considering their risk factors. They then use this “prognosis” to help them manage the patient. To provide further help for clinicians, researchers are trying to identify prognostic biomarkers (molecules whose blood levels indicate how a disease might develop) for coronary artery disease. However, before a biomarker can be used clinically, it must be properly validated and there are concerns that there is insufficient high quality evidence to validate many biomarkers. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, the researchers ask whether the evidence for an association between blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP, an inflammatory protein) and subsequent fatal and nonfatal events affecting the heart and circulation (cardiovascular events) among patients with stable coronary artery disease supports the routine measurement of CRP as recommended in clinical practice guidelines. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; a meta-analysis is a statistical method for combining the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 83 studies that investigated the association between CRP levels measured in people with coronary artery disease and subsequent cardiovascular events. Their examination of these studies revealed numerous reporting and publication short-comings. For example, none of the studies reported a prespecified statistical analysis protocol, yet analyses should be prespecified to avoid the choice of analytical method biasing the study's results. Furthermore, on average, the studies only reported seven of the 17 recommended items in the REMARK reporting guidelines, which were designed to improve the reporting quality of tumor biomarker prognostic studies. The meta-analysis revealed that patients with a CRP level in the top third of the distribution were nearly twice as likely to have a cardiovascular event as patients with a CRP in the bottom third of the distribution (a relative risk of 1.97). However, the outcomes varied considerably between studies (heterogeneity) and there was strong evidence for publication bias—most published studies were small and smaller studies were more likely to report higher relative risks. Adjustment for publication bias reduced the relative risk associated with high CRP levels to 1.19. Finally, nearly all the studies failed to calculate whether CRP measurements discriminated between patients likely and unlikely to have a subsequent cardiovascular event.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, because of multiple types of reporting and publication bias, the size of the association between CRP levels and prognosis among patients with stable coronary artery disease is extremely uncertain. They also suggest that CRP measurements are unlikely to add anything to the prognostic discrimination achieved by considering blood pressure and other standard clinical factors among this patient group. Thus, the researchers suggest, the recommendation that CRP measurements should be used in the management of patients with stable coronary artery disease ought to be removed from clinical practice guidelines. More generally, these findings increase concerns about the quality of research into prognostic biomarkers and highlight areas that need to be changed, the most fundamental of which is the need to preregister studies on prognostic biomarkers and their analytic protocols.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has pages on coronary artery disease and C-reactive protein (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to other sources of information on heart disease
The American Heart Association provides information for patients and caregivers on all aspects of cardiovascular disease, including information on the role of C-reactive protein in heart disease
Information is available from the British Heart Foundation on heart disease and keeping the heart healthy
Wikipedia has pages on biomarkers and on C-reactive protein (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The EQUATOR network is a resource center for good reporting of health research studies
PMCID: PMC2879408  PMID: 20532236
13.  Cardiac Tissue-Restricted Deletion of Plakoglobin Results in Progressive Cardiomyopathy and Activation of β-Catenin Signaling▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(6):1134-1144.
Mutations in the plakoglobin (JUP) gene have been identified in arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) patients. However, the mechanisms underlying plakoglobin dysfunction involved in the pathogenesis of ARVC remain poorly understood. Plakoglobin is a component of both desmosomes and adherens junctions located at the intercalated disc (ICD) of cardiomyocytes, where it functions to link cadherins to the cytoskeleton. In addition, plakoglobin functions as a signaling protein via its ability to modulate the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. To investigate the role of plakoglobin in ARVC, we generated an inducible cardiorestricted knockout (CKO) of the plakoglobin gene in mice. Plakoglobin CKO mice exhibited progressive loss of cardiac myocytes, extensive inflammatory infiltration, fibrous tissue replacement, and cardiac dysfunction similar to those of ARVC patients. Desmosomal proteins from the ICD were decreased, consistent with altered desmosome ultrastructure in plakoglobin CKO hearts. Despite gap junction remodeling, plakoglobin CKO hearts were refractory to induced arrhythmias. Ablation of plakoglobin caused increase β-catenin stabilization associated with activated AKT and inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase 3β. Finally, β-catenin/TCF transcriptional activity may contribute to the cardiac hypertrophy response in plakoglobin CKO mice. This novel model of ARVC demonstrates for the first time how plakoglobin affects β-catenin activity in the heart and its implications for disease pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3067899  PMID: 21245375
14.  HMGB1 Is Associated with Atherosclerotic Plaque Composition and Burden in Patients with Stable Coronary Artery Disease 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52081.
The role of inflammation in atherosclerosis is widely appreciated. High mobility group box 1 (HMGB1), an injury-associated molecular pattern molecule acting as a mediator of inflammation, has recently been implicated in the development of atherosclerosis. In this study, we sought to investigate the association of plasma HMGB1 with coronary plaque composition in patients with suspected or known coronary artery disease (CAD).
HMGB1, high sensitive troponin T (hsTnT) and high sensitive C-reactive protein (hsCRP) were determined in 152 consecutive patients with suspected or known stable CAD who underwent clinically indicated 256-slice coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA). Using CCTA, we assessed 1) coronary calcification, 2) non-calcified plaque burden and 3) the presence of vascular remodeling in areas of non-calcified plaques.
Using univariate analysis, hsCRP, hsTnT and HMGB1 as well as age, and atherogenic risk factors were associated with non-calcified plaque burden (r = 0.21, p = 0.009; r = 0.48, p<0.001 and r = 0.34, p<0.001, respectively). By multivariate analysis, hsTnT and HMGB1 remained independent predictors of the non-calcified plaque burden (r = 0.48, p<0.01 and r = 0.34, p<0.001, respectively), whereas a non-significant trend was noticed for hs-CRP (r = 0.21, p = 0.07). By combining hsTnT and HMGB1, a high positive predictive value for the presence of non-calcified and remodeled plaque (96% and 77%, respectively) was noted in patients within the upper tertiles for both biomarkers, which surpassed the positive predictive value of each marker separately.
In addition to hs-TnT, a well-established cardiovascular risk marker, HMGB1 is independently associated with non-calcified plaque burden in patients with stable CAD, while the predictive value of hs-CRP is lower. Complementary value was observed for hs-TnT and HMGB1 for the prediction of complex coronary plaque.
PMCID: PMC3524090  PMID: 23284878
15.  Plasma heat shock protein 27 is associated with coronary artery disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm and peripheral artery disease 
SpringerPlus  2014;3:635.
Low protein levels of Hsp27 have been reported in atherosclerotic plaques. In addition, human studies have indicated that circulating Hsp27 levels are lower in coronary artery disease patients compared with controls. It remains, however, unclear whether this applies to other forms of atherosclerotic disease.
Plasma Hsp27 from 280 subjects was examined by ELISA. The cohort included 80 coronary artery disease (CAD), 40 peripheral artery disease (PAD) and 80 abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) patients. Eighty elderly subjects, without any clinical history of vascular diseases, were used as a control group. Receiver operating curve (ROC) and logistic regression model analysis were performed to evaluate the potential value of Hsp27 as a circulating biomarker.
Patients with atherosclerotic vascular diseases had significantly lower levels of Hsp27 than control subjects (p < 0.001). Moreover, Hsp27 was significantly lower in CAD patients than other atherosclerotic vascular disease groups (p < 0.001). There was no difference in Hsp27 levels between the AAA and PAD groups. Using the ROC-generated optimal cut-off values for Hsp27, logistic regression modeling indicated that low plasma Hsp27 was independently associated with the presence of multiple forms of atherosclerotic disease.
In conclusion, circulating Hsp27 is significantly lower in patients with multiple forms of atherosclerotic arterial disease.
PMCID: PMC4218927  PMID: 25392804
16.  Noninvasive diagnosis of ruptured peripheral atherosclerotic lesions and myocardial infarction by antibody profiling 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2008;118(8):2979-2985.
Novel biomarkers, such as circulating (auto)antibody signatures, may improve early detection and treatment of ruptured atherosclerotic lesions and accompanying cardiovascular events, such as myocardial infarction. Using a phage-display library derived from cDNAs preferentially expressed in ruptured peripheral human atherosclerotic plaques, we performed serological antigen selection to isolate displayed cDNA products specifically interacting with antibodies in sera from patients with proven ruptured peripheral atherosclerotic lesions. Two cDNA products were subsequently evaluated on a validation series of patients with peripheral atherosclerotic lesions, healthy controls, and patients with coronary artery disease at different stages. Our biomarker set was able to discriminate between patients with peripheral ruptured lesions and patients with peripheral stable plaques with 100% specificity and 76% sensitivity. Furthermore, 93% of patients with an acute myocardial infarction (AMI) tested positive for our biomarkers, whereas all patients with stable angina pectoris tested negative. Moreover, 90% of AMI patients who initially tested negative for troponin T, for which a positive result is known to indicate myocardial infarction, tested positive for our biomarkers upon hospital admission. In conclusion, antibody profiling constitutes a promising approach for noninvasive diagnosis of atherosclerotic lesions, because a positive serum response against a set of 2 cDNA products showed a strong association with the presence of ruptured peripheral atherosclerotic lesions and myocardial infarction.
PMCID: PMC2483679  PMID: 18654662
17.  TMEM43 Mutation p.S358L Alters Intercalated Disc Protein Expression and Reduces Conduction Velocity in Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109128.
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is a myocardial disease characterized by fibro-fatty replacement of myocardium in the right ventricular free wall and frequently results in life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. A heterozygous missense mutation in the transmembrane protein 43 (TMEM43) gene, p.S358L, has been genetically identified to cause autosomal dominant ARVC type 5 in a founder population from the island of Newfoundland, Canada. Little is known about the function of the TMEM43 protein or how it leads to the pathogenesis of ARVC. We sought to determine the distribution of TMEM43 and the effect of the p.S358L mutation on the expression and distribution of various intercalated (IC) disc proteins as well as functional effects on IC disc gap junction dye transfer and conduction velocity in cell culture. Through Western blot analysis, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), immunofluorescence (IF), and electrophysiological analysis, our results showed that the stable expression of p.S358L mutation in the HL-1 cardiac cell line resulted in decreased Zonula Occludens (ZO-1) expression and the loss of ZO-1 localization to cell-cell junctions. Junctional Plakoglobin (JUP) and α-catenin proteins were redistributed to the cytoplasm with decreased localization to cell-cell junctions. Connexin-43 (Cx43) phosphorylation was altered, and there was reduced gap junction dye transfer and conduction velocity in mutant TMEM43-transfected cells. These observations suggest that expression of the p.S358L mutant of TMEM43 found in ARVC type 5 may affect localization of proteins involved in conduction, alter gap junction function and reduce conduction velocity in cardiac tissue.
PMCID: PMC4208740  PMID: 25343256
18.  Compound and Digenic Heterozygosity Contributes to Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy 
To define the genetic basis of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy.
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), characterized by right ventricular fibrofatty replacement and arrhythmias, causes sudden death. Autosomal dominant Inheritance, reduced penetrance, and 7 desmosome-encoding causative genes are known. The basis of low penetrance is poorly understood.
ARVC probands and family members were enrolled, blood obtained, lymphoblastoid cell lines immortalized, DNA extracted, PCR amplification of desmosome-encoding genes performed, PCR products sequenced and diseased tissue samples studied for intercellular junction protein distribution using confocal immunofluorescence microscopy and antibodies against key proteins.
We identified 21 variants in plakophilin-2 (PKP2) in 38 of 198 probands (19%), including missense, nonsense, splice site, and deletion/insertion mutations. Pedigrees showed wide intra-familial variability (severe early-onset disease to asymptomatic individuals). In 9/38 probands, PKP2 variants were identified that were encoded in trans (compound heterozygosity). The 38 probands hosting PKP2 variants were screened for other desmosomal genes mutations; second variants (digenic heterozygosity) were identified in 16/38 subjects with PKP2 variants (42%) including desmoplakin (DSP, n=6), desmoglein-2 (DSG2, n=5), plakophilin-4 (PKP4, n=1), and desmocollin-2 (DSC2, n=1). Heterozygous mutations in non-PKP 2desmosomal genes occurred in 14/198 subjects (7%), including DSP (n=4), DSG2 (n=5), DSC2 (n=3), and junctional plakoglobin (JUP, n=2). All variants occurred in conserved regions; none were identified in 700 ethnic-matched controls.
Immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated abnormalities of protein architecture.
These data suggest that the genetic basis of ARVC includes reduced penetrance with compound and digenic heterozygosity. Disturbed junctional cytoarchitecture in subjects with desmosomal mutations confirms that ARVC is a disease of the desmosome and cell junction.
PMCID: PMC2852685  PMID: 20152563
Arrhythmias; Cardiomyopathies; Desmosomes; Intercalated Disks; Genetic Mutations
19.  A comparison of the efficacy, safety, and longevity of two different hyaluronic acid dermal fillers in the treatment of severe nasolabial folds: a multicenter, prospective, randomized, controlled, single-blind, within-subject study 
Commercially available hyaluronic acid (HA)-based fillers have distinct physicochemical properties related to their specific manufacturing technology, including HA concentration, cross-linking percentage, and particle size. These factors may determine treatment effectiveness, safety, and longevity; however, this requires confirmation in the clinic.
To compare the efficacy, safety, and longevity of two distinct HA-based dermal fillers in the correction of severe nasolabial folds (NLFs), a 24 mg/mL smooth gel (Juvederm ULTRA PLUS™ [JUP]) and a 20 mg/mL particulate gel (Perlane® [PER]) were injected in a total of 80 normal, healthy subjects using a split face design and were followed for 12 months in this prospective, randomized, controlled, multicenter study.
Both fillers achieved a clinically relevant NLF correction (one point or more improvement, based on a validated NLF severity scale). However, JUP displayed greater longevity, with this correction maintained in a significantly larger percentage of NLFs after 6 months (physician’s evaluation) or 9 months (subject’s evaluation) and thereafter for the remainder of the study (70% vs 45%; P = 0.0002 and 62.5% vs 46.3%; P = 0.01 at month 12, based on physician and subject assessments, respectively). At month 12, 71.4% of the subjects nominated a preference for the NLF injected with JUP (P < 0.0001). Both treatments were well tolerated.
These results suggest that different physicochemical properties of HA-based fillers, associated with distinct manufacturing technologies, may influence treatment longevity in the correction of volume deficits. This may relate to a differential resistance to hyaluronidase and/or free radical degradation as previously documented in vitro.
PMCID: PMC3257885  PMID: 22253545
hyaluronic acid; dermal fillers; volume deficit; nasolabial folds; randomized; controlled
20.  Implication of plasma intermedin levels in patients who underwent first-time diagnostic coronary angiography: a single centre, cross-sectional study 
Intermedin (IMD) is involved in the prevention of atherosclerotic plaque progression, possessing cardioprotective effects from hypertrophy, fibrosis and ischemia-reperfusion injury. Elevated plasma IMD levels have been demonstrated in patients with acute coronary syndromes. No human study has examined the role of IMD in stable patients who underwent diagnostic coronary angiography with suspicion of coronary artery disease (CAD). Thus we investigated the role of IMD as a biomarker to discriminate patients with CAD and predict those with severe disease who require early and intensive therapeutic intervention before presenting with acute coronary syndrome.
Eligible two hundred and thirty-eight consecutive patients (123 males, mean age 58.4 ± 10.0 years) who underwent first-time diagnostic coronary angiography were included in this study. Plasma concentrations of IMD were measured from arterial blood samples by the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Patients were divided into three groups according to the presence and degree of CAD, consisting of 48 patients with normal coronary anatomy (Group 1), 111 patients with < 50% coronary stenosis (Group 2), and 79 patients with ≥ 50% stenosis in at least one of the major coronary arteries (group 3). The severity and extent of CAD was evaluated by calculations of the vessel, Gensini, and SYNTAX scores.
Circulating plasma IMD levels in patients with CAD were significantly higher than those in patients without CAD (157.7 ± 9.6, 134.8 ± 11.9, and 117.6 ± 7.9 pg/mL in groups 3, 2 and 1 respectively; p < 0.001). Besides, plasma IMD levels were correlated with Gensini and SYNTAX scores (rs = 0.742, and rs = 0.296, respectively; p < 0.05). The presence of ≥50% coronary artery stenosis could be predicted if a cut-off value of 147.7 pg/mL for plasma IMD was used with 88.6% sensitivity and 88.7% specificity. Moreover, a plasma IMD level of <126.6 pg/mL could discriminate a patient with normal coronary arteries from patients with angiographically proven CAD with a sensitivity and specificity of 84.7%, and 83.3% respectively.
We demonstrated that IMD might be used as a biomarker to predict CAD and its severity in patients who underwent first time diagnostic coronary angiography.
PMCID: PMC4271361  PMID: 25495100
Intermedin; Coronary artery disease; Diagnostic coronary angiography
21.  Transcriptional Profiling Uncovers a Network of Cholesterol-Responsive Atherosclerosis Target Genes 
PLoS Genetics  2008;4(3):e1000036.
Despite the well-documented effects of plasma lipid lowering regimes halting atherosclerosis lesion development and reducing morbidity and mortality of coronary artery disease and stroke, the transcriptional response in the atherosclerotic lesion mediating these beneficial effects has not yet been carefully investigated. We performed transcriptional profiling at 10-week intervals in atherosclerosis-prone mice with human-like hypercholesterolemia and a genetic switch to lower plasma lipoproteins (Ldlr−/−Apo100/100 Mttpflox/flox Mx1-Cre). Atherosclerotic lesions progressed slowly at first, then expanded rapidly, and plateaued after advanced lesions formed. Analysis of lesion expression profiles indicated that accumulation of lipid-poor macrophages reached a point that led to the rapid expansion phase with accelerated foam-cell formation and inflammation, an interpretation supported by lesion histology. Genetic lowering of plasma cholesterol (e.g., lipoproteins) at this point all together prevented the formation of advanced plaques and parallel transcriptional profiling of the atherosclerotic arterial wall identified 37 cholesterol-responsive genes mediating this effect. Validation by siRNA-inhibition in macrophages incubated with acetylated-LDL revealed a network of eight cholesterol-responsive atherosclerosis genes regulating cholesterol-ester accumulation. Taken together, we have identified a network of atherosclerosis genes that in response to plasma cholesterol-lowering prevents the formation of advanced plaques. This network should be of interest for the development of novel atherosclerosis therapies.
Author Summary
Atherosclerosis is present in the major arteries of all adults. In industrial societies, atherosclerosis progression in ∼50% of adults leads to clinical manifestations such as stroke and myocardial infarction, and eventually death. Lowering circulating LDL-cholesterol levels can slow atherosclerosis progression and even cause regression. Yet, little is known about the genes in the atherosclerotic arterial wall that mediate those effects. To identify such genes, we studied genetically modified mice in which high levels of human-like LDL-cholesterol cause rapid progression of atherosclerosis; the mice also had a genetic “switch” to lower LDL-cholesterol. Lowering LDL-cholesterol at a critical point before advanced plaques developed stopped lesion progression. Analysis of gene expression in response to the lowering of plasma LDL-cholesterol revealed 37 lesion genes as possible mediators of this effect. We validated some of these genes in macrophages using siRNA incubated with acetylated-LDL to mimic foam cells, which are central to atherosclerosis progression. “Reverse engineering” of whole-genome expression data from these experiments revealed a regulatory gene network of cholesterol-responsive atherosclerosis genes that control foam cell formation. This network and the individual genes within it merit further attention as targets for drugs to prevent the transformation of early harmless lesions into advanced, clinically significant plaques.
PMCID: PMC2265530  PMID: 18369455
22.  Macrophage inflammatory markers are associated with subclinical carotid artery disease in women with HIV or HCV infection 
Infection with hepatitis C (HCV) or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may be associated with atherosclerosis and vascular disease. Macrophages are a major component of atherosclerotic plaque, and classically activated (M1) macrophages contribute to plaque instability. Our goal was to identify plasma biomarkers that reflect macrophage inflammation and are associated with subclinical atherosclerosis.
Approach and results
We tested whether M1 macrophages produce galectin-3 binding protein (Gal-3BP) in-vitro. Then we measured Gal-3BP and the soluble macrophage biomarkers sCD163 and sCD14 in 264 participants in the Women’s Interagency HIV Study. Women were positive for HIV, HCV, both, or neither (66 in each group, matched for age, race/ethnicity and smoking status). Carotid artery disease was assessed by ultrasound measurement of right distal common carotid artery intima-media thickness (cIMT), distensibility, and presence of atherosclerotic lesions (IMT>1.5 mm). Plasma Gal-3BP was higher in HCV+ than HCV− women (p<0.01), but did not differ by HIV status. The three inflammatory macrophage markers were significantly correlated with each other and negatively correlated with CD4+ counts in HIV-infected women. We defined a macrophage score as 1, 2 or 3 biomarkers elevated above the median. In models adjusted for traditional risk factors, higher macrophage scores were significantly associated with increased atherosclerotic lesions and lower carotid distensibility. Receiver-operator curve analysis of lesions revealed that the markers added predictive value beyond traditional risk factors and C-reactive protein.
The macrophage inflammatory markers Gal-3BP, sCD163 and sCD14 are significantly associated with carotid artery disease in the setting of HIV and HCV infection.
PMCID: PMC4067091  PMID: 24651679
atherosclerosis; women; AIDS; immune system; risk factors
23.  Genetic bases of arrhythmogenic right ventricular Cardiomyopathy 
Heart International  2006;2(1):17.
Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) is a heart muscle disease in which the pathological substrate is a fibro-fatty replacement of the right ventricular myocardium. The major clinical features are different types of arrhythmias with a left branch block pattern. ARVC shows autosomal dominant inheritance with incomplete penetrance. Recessive forms were also described, although in association with skin disorders.
Ten genetic loci have been discovered so far and mutations were reported in five different genes. ARVD1 was associated with regulatory mutations of transforming growth factor beta-3 (TGFβ3), whereas ARVD2, characterized by effort-induced polymorphic arrhythmias, was associated with mutations in cardiac ryanodine receptor-2 (RYR2). All other mutations identified to date have been detected in genes encoding desmosomal proteins: plakoglobin (JUP) which causes Naxos disease (a recessive form of ARVC associated with palmoplantar keratosis and woolly hair); desmoplakin (DSP) which causes the autosomal dominant ARVD8 and plakophilin-2 (PKP2) involved in ARVD9. Desmosomes are important cell-to-cell adhesion junctions predominantly found in epidermis and heart; they are believed to couple cytoskeletal elements to plasma membrane in cell-to-cell or cell-to-substrate adhesions.
PMCID: PMC3184660  PMID: 21977247
Arrhythmias; Sudden death; Molecular genetics; Desmosomes
24.  Laser Capture Microdissection for Analysis of Macrophage Gene Expression from Atherosclerotic Lesions 
Coronary artery disease, resulting from atherosclerosis, is the leading cause of death in the Western world. Most previous studies have subjected atherosclerotic arteries, a tissue of mixed cellular composition, to homogenization in order to identify the factors in plaque development, thereby obscuring information relevant to specific cell types. Because macrophage foam cells are critical mediators in atherosclerotic plaque advancement, we reasoned that performing gene analysis on those cells would provide specific insight in novel regulatory factors and potential therapeutic targets. We demonstrated for the first time in vascular biology that foam cell-specific RNA can be isolated by laser capture microdissection (LCM) of plaques. As expected, compared to whole tissue, a significant enrichment in foam cell-specific RNA transcripts was observed. Furthermore, because regression of atherosclerosis is a tantalizing clinical goal, we developed and reported a transplantation-based mouse model. This involved allowing plaques to form in apoE−/− mice and then changing the plaque’s plasma environment from hyperlipidemia to normolipidemia. Under those conditions, rapid regression ensued in a process involving emigration of plaque foam cells to regional and systemic lymph nodes. Using LCM, we were able to show that under regression conditions, there was decreased expression in foam cells of inflammatory genes, but an up-regulation of cholesterol efflux genes. Interestingly, we also found that increased expression of chemokine receptor CCR7, a known factor in dendritic cell migration, was required for regression. In conclusion, the LCM methods described in this chapter, which have already lead to a number of striking findings, will likely further facilitate the study of cell type-specific gene expression in animal and human plaques during various stages of atherosclerosis, and after genetic, pharmacologic, and environmental perturbations.
PMCID: PMC4278963  PMID: 23912984
apoE; Atherosclerosis; Gene expression; LCM; CCR7
25.  The Relationships Between Regional Arterial Inflammation, Calcification, Risk Factors and Biomarkers – A Prospective FDG PET/CT Imaging Study 
Fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG PET) imaging of atherosclerosis has been used to quantify plaque inflammation and to measure the effect of plaque stabilizing drugs. Here we explore how atherosclerotic plaque inflammation varies across arterial territories and how it relates to arterial calcification. We also test the hypotheses that the degree of local arterial inflammation measured by PET is correlated with the extent of systemic inflammation and presence of risk factors for vascular disease.
Methods and Results
Forty-one subjects underwent vascular PET/CT imaging with FDG. All had either vascular disease or multiple risk factors for it. Forty subjects underwent carotid imaging, twenty-seven underwent aortic, twenty-four iliac and thirteen femoral imaging. Thirty-three subjects had a panel of biomarkers analyzed.
We found strong associations between FDG uptake in neighboring arteries (left vs. right carotid r=0.91, p<0.001, ascending aorta vs. aortic arch r=0.88, p<0.001). Calcification and inflammation rarely overlapped within arteries – carotid artery FDG uptake vs. calcium score r=−0.42, p=0.03). Carotid artery FDG uptake was greater in those with a history of coronary artery disease (target to background ratio (TBR) 1.83 vs. 1.61, p<0.01), and in males vs. females (TBR 1.83 vs. 1.63, p<0.05). Similar findings were also noted in the aorta and iliac arteries. Subjects with the highest levels of FDG uptake also had the greatest concentrations of inflammatory biomarkers: descending aorta TBR vs. matrix metalloproteinase 3 (MMP 3): r=0.53, p=0.01 and carotid TBR vs. MMP 9: r=0.50, p=0.01. Non-significant positive trends were seen between FDG uptake and levels of interleukin 18, fibrinogen and C-reactive protein. Finally, we found that the atheroprotective biomarker adiponectin was negatively correlated with the degree of arterial inflammation in the descending aorta: r=−0.49, p=0.03).
This study shows that FDG PET imaging can increase our knowledge of how atherosclerotic plaque inflammation relates to calcification, serum biomarkers and vascular risk factors. Plaque inflammation and calcification rarely overlap, supporting the theory that calcification represents a late, burnt-out stage of atherosclerosis. Inflammation in one arterial territory is associated with inflammation elsewhere, and the degree of local arterial inflammation is reflected in the blood levels of several circulating biomarkers. We suggest that FDG PET imaging could be used as a surrogate marker of both atherosclerotic disease activity and drug effectiveness. Prospective, event driven studies are now underway to determine the role of this technique in clinical risk prediction.
PMCID: PMC3190196  PMID: 19808576
Atherosclerosis; Imaging; Inflammation; Positron Emission Tomography; Fluorodeoxyglucose; Calcification

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