Objectives: Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have increased cardiovascular risk. The aim of the present study was the assessment of low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL) subclass distribution in patients with early RA (ERA, n = 30) compared with age- and sex-matched healthy subjects (n = 30), as well the effect of treatment for 12 months with the disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) methotrexate and prednisone in this distribution.
Method: LDL and HDL subclass distribution was determined using a polyacrylamide gel-tube electrophoresis method.
Results: ERA patients exhibited increased levels of inflammatory markers and high disease activity score. ERA patients had higher serum levels of total cholesterol (TC), LDL cholesterol (LDL-C), and triglycerides (TG) whereas their serum HDL cholesterol (HDL-C) levels were significantly lower compared with controls. ERA patients exhibited significantly higher plasma levels of small dense LDL-C (sdLDL-C), leading to a significantly decreased mean LDL diameter. ERA patients had significantly decreased small HDL particles (HDL-3) concentration whereas serum levels of large HDL particles (HDL-2) did not differ compared with controls. Treatment with DMARDs resulted in a significant decrease in inflammatory markers and disease activity, along with a significant increase in HDL-C serum levels. The concentration of sdLDL-C did not change significantly during treatment. We observed a significant increase in the levels of large HDL-2 whereas the concentration of small HDL-3 did not significantly change.
Conclusions: Patients with ERA have increased sdLDL-C levels and decreased HDL-C levels because of decreased concentration of the small HDL-3 subclass. The administration of DMARDs induced a significant increase in HDL-C levels, which was attributed to the increase in large HDL-2 serum concentration.