Intraplaque MMP-8 levels are increased in asymptomatic patients with carotid plaque progression on ultrasound


      Carotid atherosclerotic plaque remodelling and increased risk of symptomatic plaque rupture seem to be partially mediated by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). In this study, we have investigated whether different MMPs are related to carotid atherosclerosis or to recent ischaemic brain disease.
      Eighty-four consecutive patients undergoing carotid endarterectomy for symptomatic and asymptomatic disease were studied. Plaques were analysed by ultrasound and later by morphology. Plasma MMP-2, MMP-8 and MMP-9 levels were quantified by ELISA. MMP expression and activity in carotid plaques was analysed by Western blotting and in situ zymography. Results were analysed with respect to plaque stability, morphology, symptomatic disease, presence of vascular risk factors and plasma markers of acute inflammation as high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), fibrinogen, D-dimer and white blood cell counts.
      Patients with hypoechogenic plaques on ultrasound had more plasma MMP-8 (p = 0.04) and increased MMP activity as assessed by in situ zymography. Asymptomatic patients with plaque progression had more active intraplaque MMP-8 than asymptomatic patients without plaque progression. Presence of recent intraplaque haemorrhage or past history of CAD was related to increased activity of MMPs as assessed by in situ zymography (p < 0.01, CI 95% 0.8–1.0). Plasma MMP-8 and MMP-9, but not MMP-2 levels, decrease with time after ischaemic stroke. Patients with hypertension had more intraplaque active MMP-9 than normotensive (p = 0.03, CI 95% 0.7–1.0).
      Hypoechogenic carotid plaques had increased MMP activity and asymptomatic patients with plaque progression show increase intraplaque MMP-8 levels.


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