Carotid Plaques from Symptomatic Patients Are Characterized by Local Increase in Xanthine Oxidase Expression

Morsaleh Ganji, Valentina Nardi, Megha Prasad, Kyra L. Jordan, Melanie C. Bois, Federico Franchi, Xiang Y. Zhu, Hui Tang, Melissa D. Young, Lilach O. Lerman, Amir Lerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Purpose: XO (xanthine oxidase) is a key enzyme of uric acid metabolism and is thought to contribute to oxidative pathways that promote atherosclerotic plaque progression, yet its role in plaque destabilization is not well elucidated. We hypothesized that XO is expressed in carotid plaque from symptomatic patients in association with cardiovascular risk factors. Methods: Patients were stratified by symptoms, defined as presentation with an ipsilateral cerebral ischemic event. Carotid atherosclerotic plaques were obtained from 44 patients with symptomatic plaque and 44 patients without ischemic cerebral events. Protein expression of XO was evaluated by immunohistochemical staining and the percentage of cells expressing XO and CD68 (macrophage marker) compared between the groups. Biochemical and demographic cardiometabolic risk factors of study participants also were measured. Results: Carotid atherosclerotic plaques from symptomatic patients were associated with significantly higher XO expression versus asymptomatic plaque (median [interquartile range]: 1.24 [2.09] versus 0.16 [0.34]; P<0.001) and with significantly higher circulating uric acid levels (mean±SD: 7.36±2.10 versus 5.37±1.79 mg/dL; P<0.001, respectively). In addition, XO expression in atherosclerotic carotid plaque was inversely associated with serum high-density lipoproteins cholesterol levels (P=0.010, r=-0.30) and directly with circulating uric acid levels (P<0.001, r=0.45). The average percentage of macrophages that expressed XO was significantly higher in symptomatic versus asymptomatic plaques (median [interquartile range]: 93.37% [25] versus 46.15% [21], respectively; P<0.001). Conclusions: XO overexpression in macrophages is associated with increased serum uric acid and low high-density lipoproteins cholesterol levels and may potentially have a mechanistic role in carotid plaque destabilization. The current study supports a potential role for uric acid synthesis pathway as a target for management of carotid atherosclerosis in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2792-2801
Number of pages10
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • carotid plaque
  • high-density lipoproteins cholesterol
  • macrophage
  • uric acid
  • xanthine oxidase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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