Oxidative stress in atherogenesis and arterial thrombosis: the disconnect between cellular studies and clinical outcomes

J Thromb Haemost. 2005 Feb;3(2):254-67. doi: 10.1111/j.1538-7836.2004.01085.x.


Atherosclerosis is a multifactorial disease for which the molecular etiology of many of the risk factors is still unknown. As no single genetic marker or test accurately predicts cardiovascular death, phenotyping for markers of inflammation may identify the individuals at risk for vascular diseases. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are key mediators of signaling pathways that underlie vascular inflammation in atherogenesis, starting from the initiation of fatty streak development through lesion progression to ultimate plaque rupture. Various animal models of atherosclerosis support the notion that ROS released from NAD(P)H oxidases, xanthine oxidase, lipoxygenases, and enhanced ROS production from dysfunctional mitochondrial respiratory chain indeed have a causatory role in atherosclerosis and other vascular diseases. Human investigations also support the oxidative stress hypothesis of atherogenesis. This is further supported by the observed impairment of vascular function and enhanced atherogenesis in animal models that have deficiencies in antioxidant enzymes. The importance of oxidative stress in atherosclerosis is further emphasized because of its role as a unifying mechanism across many vascular diseases. The main contraindicator for the role oxidative stress plays in atherosclerosis is the lack of effectiveness of antioxidants in reducing primary endpoints of cardiovascular death and morbidity. However, this lack of effectiveness by itself does not negate the existence or causatory role of oxidative stress in vascular disease. Lack of proven markers of oxidative stress, which could help to identify a subset of population that can benefit from antioxidant supplementation, and the complexity and subcellular localization of redox reactions, are among the factors responsible for the mixed outcomes in the use of antioxidants for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. To better understand the role of oxidative stress in vascular diseases, future studies should be aimed at using advances in mouse and human genetics to define oxidative stress phenotypes and link phenotype with genotype.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Arteriosclerosis / etiology*
  • Arteriosclerosis / metabolism
  • DNA Damage
  • Humans
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Thrombosis / etiology*
  • Thrombosis / metabolism


  • Antioxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species