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Atherosclerosis. 2013 Sep;230(1):100-105. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2013.05.018. Epub 2013 Jul 14.

Plasma levels of cathepsins L, K, and V and risks of abdominal aortic aneurysms: a randomized population-based study.

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Institute of Cardiology, Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430022, China.
Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
Vascular Research Unit, Department of Vascular Surgery, Viborg Hospital, Denmark.
Elitary Research Centre for Individualized Medicine in Arterial Diseases (CIMA), Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, University Hospital of Odense, Denmark.
Contributed equally



Cathepsin L (CatL), cathepsin K (CatK), and cathepsin V (CatV) are potent elastases implicated in human arterial wall remodeling. Whether plasma levels of these cathepsins are altered in patients with abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) remains unknown.


Plasma samples were collected from 476 male AAA patients and 200 age-matched male controls to determine CatL, CatK, and CatV levels by ELISA. Student's t-test demonstrated significantly higher plasma CatL levels in AAA patients than in controls (P < 0.0001), whereas CatK and CatV levels were lower in AAA patients than in controls (P = 0.052, P = 0.025). ROC curve analysis confirmed higher plasma CatL levels in AAA patients than in controls (P < 0.001). As potential confounders, current smoking and use of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, aspirin, clopidogrel, and statins associated with significantly increased plasma CatL. Pearson's correlation test demonstrated that plasma CatL associated positively with CatS (r = 0.43, P < 0.0001), body-mass index (BMI) (r = 0.07, P = 0.047) and maximal aortic diameter (r = 0.29, P < 0.001), and negatively with lowest measured ankle-brachial index (ABI) (r = -0.22, P < 0.001). Plasma CatL remained associated positively with CatS (r = 0.43, P < 0.0001) and aortic diameter (r = 0.212, P < 0.001) and negatively with ABI (r = -0.10, P = 0.011) after adjusting for the aforementioned potential confounders in a partial correlation analysis. Multivariate logistic regression analysis indicated that plasma CatL was a risk factor of AAA before (odds ratio [OR] = 3.04, P < 0.001) and after (OR = 2.42, P < 0.001) the same confounder adjustment.


Correlation of plasma CatL levels with aortic diameter and the lowest ABI suggest that this cysteinyl protease plays a detrimental role in the pathogenesis of human peripheral arterial diseases and AAAs.


AAA; ABI; ACE; AUC; Abdominal aortic aneurysm; Ankle-brachial index; Aortic diameter; BMI; CT; CatK; CatL; CatV; Cathepsin K; Cathepsin L; Cathepsin V; ECM; MMP; OR; PAD; ROC; abdominal aortic aneurysm; angiotensin-converting enzyme; ankle-brachial index; area under the ROC curve; body-mass index; cathepsin K; cathepsin L; cathepsin V; computed tomography; extracellular matrix; metalloproteinase; odds ratio; peripheral arterial disease; receiver-operator characteristic

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