A histoenzymatic study of human intracranial atherosclerosis

Am J Pathol. 1972 Jun;67(3):583-600.


A light microscopy study on the localization of enzyme activity within atherosclerotic human intracranial arteries was performed on autopsy material obtained within 4 hours of death. The data suggests that the atherosclerotic process first goes through a proliferative phase and then a degenerative phase culminating in the formation of a plaque. In the proliferative phase, smooth muscle cell proliferation has formed a thickened intima. Tetrazolium reductase, adenosine triphosphatase (ATPase) and adenosine monophosphatase (AMPase) activities are present in these cells, while all dehydrogenases and acid phosphatase activities were weak or not present. As the degenerative phase commences, an area of necrosis, lipid and macrophage accumulation is formed on the lumen side of the elastica. This area increases in size until a plaque is formed. Unsaturated polar and nonpolar lipid, cholesterol, alpha-glycerophosphate dehydrogenase, acid phosphatase, and AMPase activities are associated with these areas and in foam cells, which are often found in the thickened intima of the proliferative phase. Tetrazolium reductase and ATPase activities decrease in the thickened intima as the area of necrosis increases in size, while dehydrogenase activity, except that for alpha-glycerophosphate, remains low or not present. Patterns of enzyme alterations for various stages of the disease process in intracranial arteries, the aorta and coronary arteries suggest a similar, if not identical, progression of the atherosclerotic process, irrespective of known differences in the prevalence of atherosclerosis.

MeSH terms

  • Acid Phosphatase / metabolism
  • Adenosine Monophosphate / metabolism
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arteriosclerosis / enzymology*
  • Arteriosclerosis / pathology
  • Autopsy
  • Basilar Artery / enzymology
  • Carotid Arteries / enzymology
  • Cerebral Arteries / enzymology*
  • Cerebral Arteries / pathology
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Female
  • Glycerolphosphate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Humans
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / analysis
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Necrosis
  • Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Tetrazolium Salts / metabolism


  • Tetrazolium Salts
  • Adenosine Monophosphate
  • Cholesterol
  • Oxidoreductases
  • Glycerolphosphate Dehydrogenase
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase
  • Acid Phosphatase
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases