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J Lab Clin Med. 1981 Jul;98(1):68-77.

Cholesterol and atheroma lipids activate complement and stimulate granulocytes. A possible mechanism for amplification of ischemic injury in atherosclerotic states.


Previous studies in experimental myocardial infarction have suggested that PMNs and plasma C might interact to intensify ischemic injury. From the finding of large amounts of activated C (specifically C5a) in the plasma of a patient with severe, ulcerating atherosclerosis and the cholesterol embolization syndrome, we postulated that crystalline cholesterol might activate C and thereby amplify infarctive tissue damage. On simple incubation, crystalline cholesterol--as well as lipids from atheromata--activated plasma C; such plasma then potently aggregated normal PMNs and provoked them to damage cultured endothelial cells in vitro. The active principle in cholesterol-incubated plasma was of molecular weight and antigenicity consistent with C5a (or C5a[desarginine]). Optimal activation required the presence of Ig and an intact classical C pathway. Exposure of plasma to crystalline cholesterol by ulceration of, or hemorrhage into, atherosclerotic plaques might therefore activate C in vivo, promoting further ischemic damage by causing leukostatic-leukoembolic compromise of small vessels downstream from the site of activation.

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