Background: The lipocalin family proteins, including lipocalin-2 and retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4), are adipokines closely associated with obesity-related metabolic disorders. In this study, we evaluated the association of serum lipocalin-2 and RBP4 with intima-media thickness (IMT) and subclinical atherosclerosis in type 2 diabetic patients.
Methods and results: Serum levels of lipocalin-2 and RBP4 were measured in 284 type 2 diabetic patients. Subclinical atherosclerosis was assessed by IMT at carotid, femoral and iliac arteries with ultrasound. Patients with subclinical atherosclerosis showed significantly higher circulating concentrations of lipocalin-2 and RBP4 when compared to those without [112.9 (86.4 to 202.1) µg/L versus 77.2(55.0-150.4) µg/L, 37.1(32.3-40.8) mg/L versus 23.2(20.1-29.2) mg/L, respectively; P = 0.002, P<0.001, respectively]. Moreover, positive correlations were observed between carotid IMT and lipocalin-2 (r = 0.170, P = 0.018) or RBP4 (r = 0.132, P = 0.040), femoral IMT and lipocalin-2 (r = 0.160, P = 0.027), as well as between iliac IMT and RBP4 (r = 0.241, P<0.001). Multiple logistic regression analysis further demonstrated that these two adipokines were independent risk factors for subclinical atherosclerosis in type 2 diabetes.
Conclusion: Circulating levels of lipocalin-2 and RBP4 are positively correlated with carotid IMT and subclinical atherosclerosis in type 2 diabetes, which suggests a potential role of these two lipid-binding chaperones in the pathogenesis of vascular complications of diabetes.