Background: Although increased tissue factor expression is known in vulnerable plaques, there is no reported study to compare plaque fibrinolysis in stable and unstable plaques. This study investigates the extent of plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) and apolipoprotein (a) [apo(a)] in the plaques of different types of coronary artery disease as well as the correlation between these molecules and infiltration of macrophages to plaques.
Methods: Using immunohistochemical staining, we examined PAI-1 expression and apo(a) deposition in coronary atherosclerotic specimens obtained by directional coronary atherectomy from 19 patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI), 12 with unstable angina pectoris (UAP), and 13 with stable angina pectoris (SAP). The percentages of the total areas of specimens stained with PAI-1 or apo(a) were estimated by an NIH image program. The proportion of macrophages as a percentage of all cells in plaques was calculated as the macrophage density.
Results: We found significantly higher percentages of total areas of specimens stained with PAI-1 in AMI (25.5 +/- 8.6%, P < 0.001) and UAP (22.2 +/- 10.4%, P < 0.005) than in SAP (9.5 +/- 5.0%), as well as with apo(a) (AMI; 11.7 +/- 7.1%, P < 0.005, UAP; 11.1 +/- 5.5%, P < 0.01 versus SAP; 3.9 +/- 1.5%). Linear regression analysis of all the samples showed a correlation between PAI-1 or apo(a) and macrophage density (PAI-1: r = 0.75, P < 0.001 and apo(a): r = 0.56, P < 0.001).
Conclusions: Our results suggest a possible contribution of increased PAI-1 and apo(a) in plaques to the pathogenesis of acute coronary syndromes including impaired fibrinolysis.