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Am J Pathol. 1995 Dec;147(6):1567-74.

Apolipoprotein(a) deposition in atherosclerotic plaques of cerebral vessels. A potential role for endothelial cells in lesion formation.

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  • 1Division of Neuropathology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia 19104-6079, USA.


Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of death and serious morbidity in economically developed societies through its sequelae of coronary artery and cerebrovascular disease. The causes and mechanisms of atherosclerosis are still largely unknown. Serum levels of a lipoprotein, Lp(a), have been shown, in retrospective and some prospective clinical studies, to be associated with increased risk of myocardial and cerebral infarction. The active part of Lp(a), apo(a), has > 80% homology with plasminogen; thus it may competitively inhibit the thrombolytic action of plasminogen and enhance thrombogenesis. Lp(a) has been shown to be deposited in the vascular wall of the aorta and coronary vessels, but its presence in the cerebral vessels has not yet been shown. Autopsy specimens of vessels of the circle of Willis from 23 patients were examined for degree of atherosclerosis and deposition of apo(a) by immunohistochemistry with apo(a)-specific monoclonal antibodies. The amount of apo(a) deposition in cerebral vessels correlated well with the degree of cerebral atherosclerosis. Arterial deposition of apo(a) was found entirely within the endothelial cell and subendothelial cell layers. There was no staining within the media and adventitia, with the exception of staining within the endothelial cells of the vasa vasorum. Correlation between the morphology of apo(a) deposition and plaque stage was found suggesting that detection of apo(a) in endothelial cells is an early event in the development of the atherosclerotic plaque of cerebral vessels.

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