Isabel Gonçalves a, b , Mikko P.S. Ares a , Anna Moberg a , Jonatan Moses a , Fong To a , Jonathan Montan a , Luís M. Pedro e , Nuno Dias e , José Fernandes e Fernandes e , Gunilla Nordin Fredrikson a , Jan Nilsson a , Stefan Jovinge c, d , Eva Bengtsson a
28 March 2008
Background: Cystatin C is a major inhibitor of the elastin- and collagen-degrading cysteine proteases and may therefore have an important role in preserving atherosclerotic plaque stability. In this study we analyzed the associations between human carotid plaque cystatin C expression and the plaque content of collagen and elastin. Methods: Thirty-one plaques were removed by endarterectomy and homogenized. Cystatin C levels were analyzed by densitometry of Western blots and elastin and collagen levels were determined colorimetrically. Results: The plaque content of cystatin C correlated with total elastin (r = 0.58, p = 0.001) and collagen (r = 0.50, p = 0.004), as well as with cross-linked forms of elastin (r = 0.42, p = 0.022) and collagen (r = 0.52, p = 0.003). Immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated that cystatin C colocalized with elastin and collagen. No correlation was seen between cystatin C and the amount of degraded elastin or collagen in plaques. Conclusion: The positive correlation between cystatin C levels and collagen and elastin levels in plaques supports the notion that cystatin C plays an important role in maintaining atherosclerotic plaque stability.