Objective: The mechanism of atherosclerotic plaque progression leading to instability, rupture, and ischemic manifestation involves oxidative stress and apoptosis. Humanin (HN) is a newly emerging endogenously expressed cytoprotective peptide. Our goal was to determine the presence and localization of HN in carotid atherosclerotic plaques. Methods and Results: Plaque specimens from 34 patients undergoing carotid endarterectomy were classified according to symptomatic history. Immunostaining combined with digital microscopy revealed greater expression of HN in the unstable plaques of symptomatic compared to asymptomatic patients (29.42±2.05 vs. 14.14±2.13% of plaque area, p<0.0001). These data were further confirmed by immunoblot (density of HN/β-actin standard symptomatic vs. asymptomatic 1.32±0.14 vs. 0.79±0.11, p<0.01). TUNEL staining revealed a higher proportion of apoptotic nuclei in the plaques of symptomatic patients compared to asymptomatic (68.25±3.61 vs. 33.46±4.46% of nuclei, p<0.01). Double immunofluorescence labeling revealed co-localization of HN with macrophages (both M1 and M2 polarization), smooth muscle cells, fibroblasts, and dendritic cells as well as with inflammatory markers MMP2 and MMP9. Conclusions: The study demonstrates a higher expression of HN in unstable carotid plaques that is localized to multiple cell types within the plaque. These data support the involvement of HN in atherosclerosis, possibly as an endogenous response to the inflammatory and apoptotic processes within the atheromatous plaque.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Agricultural and Biological Sciences