Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a multifactorial process that appears to be caused by the interaction of environmental risk factors with multiple predisposing genes. Genetic research on CAD has traditionally focused on investigation aimed at identifying disease-susceptibility genes. Recent evidence suggests that somatically acquired DNA mutations may also contribute significantly to the pathogenesis of the disease, underlining the similarity between atherosclerotic and carcinogenic processes. The generation of oxidative stress has been emphasized as an important cause of DNA damage in atherosclerosis. This review highlights some of the major atherogenic risk factors as likely mediators in the oxidative modification of DNA. It also examines the hypothesis that an increase in oxidative stress may derive from "oxidatively" damaged mitochondria. Accordingly, further research in this field should be given high priority, since increased somatic DNA damage could be an important pathogenic factor and an additional prognostic predictor, as well as a potential target for therapeutic strategies in coronary artery disease.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science B.V.