Send to

Choose Destination
Curr Med Res Opin. 2007 Mar;23(3):659-70.

Metallothionein expression in the high-risk carotid atherosclerotic plaque.

Author information

Department of Vascular Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, UK.



Metallothioneins (MTs) are antioxidant proteins expressed in response to injury. We evaluated MT immunoreactivity in carotid plaques obtained from asymptomatic and symptomatic patients. We also assessed the relationship between ultrasonic plaque echodensity, histological grading, computed tomography findings and MT expression.


In this ongoing prospective study, patients (n = 123, mean age (+/-SD) 68.4 +/- 7.7 years, 97 men) with high-grade carotid stenosis underwent carotid endarterectomy. Specimens were assessed histologically and immunohistochemically. Echolucent plaques (types 1+2) were more common in symptomatic patients (p < 0.0001) and had more advanced histological lesions (p < 0.0001). Echolucent plaques expressed MTs (in macrophages, fibroblasts and T-lymphocytes) significantly more than echogenic plaques (types 3+4) (all p < 0.0001). MT expression was mainly related to carotid plaque echolucency rather than the presence of symptoms. MT expression was significantly more common in advanced histological lesions. Plaques from asymptomatic or symptomatic patients with abnormal computed tomography findings also showed increased MT expression. There was a time-dependent fall in MT expression after cerebrovascular events (p < or = 0.011).


MT overexpression may be triggered in unstable plaques as a local protective factor. There is a need to identify both causative and protective predictors of the 'vulnerable plaque' in the 'vulnerable patient'. Further studies are needed to resolve these issues.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Taylor & Francis
Loading ...
Support Center