Haptoglobin elutes from human atherosclerotic coronary arteries—a potential marker of arterial pathology


      Background: Molecules which egress from atherosclerotic arteries may function as plasma markers of arterial pathology, but such egress has not been proven with living human coronary arteries. We hypothesised that proteins eluting from the arterial wall may discriminate between atherosclerotic and non-atherosclerotic coronary arteries. Methods and results: During cardiac bypass surgery, 155 sequential fractions of antegradely flushed coronary cardioplegia solution were collected by balloon-cuffed catheter from the coronary sinus in subjects with angiographically extensive (n=30) or minor (n=7) coronary disease. Although plasma was the major source of protein in heavily blood-contaminated samples, under conditions of low blood contamination (<0.5 mg/ml red cell Haemoglobin) coronary circulation-derived protein was detected. N-terminal sequencing of a major 40 kDa band detected by sodium dodecyl sulphate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) demonstrated 100% homology with beta chain of Haptoglobin (Hpt). Comparison of perfusates from patients with and without significant coronary disease found that the concentration of Hpt was markedly increased in perfusates from atherosclerotic coronary arteries (0.099±0.017 μg Hpt/μg Hb) relative to controls (0.016±0.008 μg Hpt/μg Hb, P=0.0027). Analysis of peripheral plasma samples of the same subjects, and of a separate cohort of patients, confirmed greater Hpt in those with angiographic coronary disease than in those without disease. Conclusions: Proteins such as Hpt elute from the human coronary vascular bed and may differentiate between arteries with minor or extensive atherosclerosis. Although the suitability of Hpt as a circulating plasma marker for atherosclerosis remains to be established, the approach used in the present study may permit identification of diverse plasma-detectable markers of atherosclerosis, and the subsequent non-invasive evaluation of in vivo arterial pathology.


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