Low Carotid Calcium Score Is Associated With Higher Levels of Glycosaminoglycans, Tumor Necrosis Factor-Alpha, and Parathyroid Hormone in Human Carotid Plaques
Background and Purpose—Computed tomography (CT) is used to study coronary artery plaques, but little is known about its potential to characterize plaque composition. This study assesses the relation between carotid calcium score (CCS) by CT and plaque composition, namely extracellular matrix, inflammatory mediators, and calcium metabolites.
Methods—Thirty patients with significant carotid stenosis underwent preoperative CT. CCS was quantified by Agaston calcium score. Plaque components were studied histologically and biochemically (collagen, elastin, and glycosaminoglycans). Fraktalkine, interferon-γ, interleukin-10, interleukin-12 p70, interleukin-1β, interleukin-6, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, platelet-derived growth factor-AB/BB, RANTES and tumor necrosis factor-α, and parathyroid hormone were measured using Luminex technology.
Results—Plaques with CCS ≥400 had more calcium (P=0.012), less glycosaminoglycan (P=0.002), tumor necrosis factor-α (P=0.013), and parathyroid hormone (P=0.028) than those with CCS <400. CCS correlated with plaque content of calcium (r=0.62; P<0.001) and inversely with glycosaminoglycan (r=−0.49; P=0.006) and tumor necrosis factor-α (r=−0.56; P=0.001).
Conclusions—Human carotid plaques with high CCS are richer in calcium and have lower amounts of glycosaminoglycan, parathyroid hormone, and tumor necrosis factor-α, which is one of the main proinflammatory cytokines involved in atherosclerosis. This suggests that CCS not only reflects the degree of calcification, but also other important biological components relevant for stability such as inflammation.
- Received March 17, 2011.
- Revision received April 21, 2011.
- Accepted April 26, 2011.
- © 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.