Background: Coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke were key outcomes in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) randomized trials of postmenopausal estrogen and estrogen plus progestin therapy. We recently reported a large number of changes in blood protein concentrations in the first year following randomization in these trials using an in-depth quantitative proteomics approach. However, even though many affected proteins are in pathways relevant to the observed clinical effects, the relationships of these proteins to CHD and stroke risk among postmenopausal women remains substantially unknown.
Methods: The same in-depth proteomics platform was applied to plasma samples, obtained at enrollment in the WHI Observational Study, from 800 women who developed CHD and 800 women who developed stroke during cohort follow-up, and from 1-1 matched controls. A plasma pooling strategy, followed by extensive fractionation prior to mass spectrometry, was used to identify proteins related to disease incidence, and the overlap of these proteins with those affected by hormone therapy was examined. Replication studies, using enzyme-linked-immunosorbent assay (ELISA), were carried out in the WHI hormone therapy trial cohorts.
Results: Case versus control concentration differences were suggested for 37 proteins (nominal P < 0.05) for CHD, with three proteins, beta-2 microglobulin (B2M), alpha-1-acid glycoprotein 1 (ORM1), and insulin-like growth factor binding protein acid labile subunit (IGFALS) having a false discovery rate < 0.05. Corresponding numbers for stroke were 47 proteins with nominal P < 0.05, three of which, apolipoprotein A-II precursor (APOA2), peptidyl-prolyl isomerase A (PPIA), and insulin-like growth factor binding protein 4 (IGFBP4), have a false discovery rate < 0.05. Other proteins involved in insulin-like growth factor signaling were also highly ranked. The associations of B2M with CHD (P < 0.001) and IGFBP4 with stroke (P = 0.005) were confirmed using ELISA in replication studies, and changes in these proteins following the initiation of hormone therapy use were shown to have potential to help explain hormone therapy effects on those diseases.
Conclusions: In-depth proteomic discovery analysis of prediagnostic plasma samples identified B2M and IGFBP4 as risk markers for CHD and stroke respectively, and provided a number of candidate markers of disease risk and candidate mediators of hormone therapy effects on CHD and stroke.
Clinical trials registration: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00000611.