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Prog Brain Res. 2004;146:279-89.

Neurotrophin presence in human coronary atherosclerosis and metabolic syndrome: a role for NGF and BDNF in cardiovascular disease?

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  • 1Division of Cell Biology, Department of Forensic Medicine, Medical University, Varna, Bulgaria.


The development of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is a common comorbidity in patients with the metabolic syndrome, a concurrence of cardiovascular risk factors in one individual. While multiple growth factors and adipokines are identified in atherosclerotic lesions, as well as neurotrophins implicated in both cardiac ischemia and lipid and glucose metabolism, the potential role of neurotrophins in human coronary atherosclerosis and in the metabolic syndrome still remains to be elucidated. Here we describe and discuss our results that represent a novel attempt to study the cardiovascular and metabolic biology of nerve growth factor (NGF), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and mast cells (MC). The local amount of NGF, the immunolocalization of p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR) and the number of MC were correlatively examined in coronary vascular wall and in the surrounding subepicardial adipose tissue, obtained from autopsy cases in humans with advanced coronary atherosclerosis. We also analyzed the plasma levels of NGF, BDNF and leptin and the number of MC in biopsies from abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue in patients with a severe form of the metabolic syndrome. The results demonstrate that NGF levels are decreased in atherosclerotic coronary vascular tissue but increased in the subepicardial adipose tissue, whereas both tissues express a greater number of MC and a stronger p75NTR immunoreactivity, compared to controls. Metabolic syndrome patients display a significant hyponeurotrophinemia and an increased number of adipose MC; the later correlates with elevated plasma leptin levels. In effect, we provide the first evidence for (i) an altered presence of NGF, p75NTR and MC in both coronary vascular and subepicardial adipose tissue in human coronary atherosclerosis, and (ii) a significant decrease in plasma NGF and BDNF levels and an elevated amount of plasma leptin and adipose MC in metabolic syndrome patients. Together our findings suggest that neuroimmune mediators such as NGF, BDNF, leptin and MC may be involved in the development of cardiovascular disease and related disorders.

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