European journal of vascular and endovascular surgery : the official journal of the European Society for Vascular Surgery

Activation of the proapoptotic unfolded protein response in plaques of the human carotid artery.

PMID 25060744


To analyze expression of keystone markers of apoptosis and the proapoptotic signaling pathway "unfolded protein response" (UPR) in rupture-prone plaques of the human carotid artery. Plaque specimens were obtained during endarterectomy for high-grade carotid stenosis, and were formalin-fixed. Ten specimens were identified that exhibited criteria of advanced rupture-prone atherosclerotic plaques, and histological and immunohistological analysis of markers of apoptosis (cleaved Caspase-3, TUNEL) and UPR (KDEL, ATF3, CHOP, CHAC-1) was performed. In addition, co-localization of apoptosis and UPR-activation was assessed by double-immunohistochemistry. The mean size of the necrotic core was 44 ± 7% and the mean minimum/representative thicknesses of the fibrous cap were 129 ± 39 μm/280 ± 60 μm, respectively. Each specimen fulfilled at least two of the criteria for rupture-prone plaques. Semi-quantitative analysis of immunohistochemistry showed a significant increase in cleaved Caspase-3-positive (1923 ± 93 cells/mm(2)) and TUNEL-positive cells (1387 ± 66 cells/mm(2)) when compared with control tissue. Furthermore, expression of UPR-markers KDEL, AFT3 and CHOP was significantly increased (1175 ± 40 cells/mm(2), 1971 ± 69 cells/mm(2) and 2173 ± 120 cells/mm(2), respectively). Co-localization of UPR-activation with apoptosis was confirmed by double-immunohistochemistry, and lesional macrophages were identified as the primary cell-type involved. For the first time, activation of the proapoptotic signaling pathway UPR has been identified in advanced rupture-prone plaques of the human carotid artery. This provides additional evidence for adding UPR to the potential targets for controlling plaque apoptosis and thereby preventing plaque progression/rupture.