Lipoprotein(a) in health and disease

Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 1996;33(6):495-543. doi: 10.3109/10408369609080056.


Lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)] represents an LDL-like particle to which the Lp(a)-specific apolipoprotein(a) is linked via a disulfide bridge. It has gained considerable interest as a genetically determined risk factor for atherosclerotic vascular disease. Several studies have described a correlation between elevated Lp(a) plasma levels and coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral atherosclerosis. In healthy individuals, Lp(a) plasma concentrations are almost exclusively controlled by the apo(a) gene locus on chromosome 6q2.6-q2.7. More than 30 alleles at this highly polymorphic gene locus determine a size polymorphism of apo(a). There exists an inverse correlation between the size (molecular weight) of apo(a) isoforms and Lp(a) plasma concentrations. The standardization of Lp(a) quantification is still an unresolved task due to the large particle size of Lp(a), the presence of two different apoproteins [apoB and apo(a)], and the large size polymorphism of apo(a) and its homology with plasminogen. A working group sponsored by the IFCC is currently establishing a stable reference standard for Lp(a) as well as a reference method for quantitative analysis. Aside from genetic reasons, abnormal Lp(a) plasma concentrations are observed as secondary to various diseases. Lp(a) plasma levels are elevated over controls in patients with nephrotic syndrome and patients with end-stage renal disease. Following renal transplantation, Lp(a) concentrations decrease to values observed in controls matched for apo(a) type. Controversial data on Lp(a) in diabetes mellitus result mainly from insufficient sample sizes of numerous studies. Large studies and those including apo(a) phenotype analysis came to the conclusion that Lp(a) levels are not or only moderately elevated in insulin-dependent patients. In noninsulin-dependent diabetics, Lp(a) is not elevated. Conflicting data also exist from studies in patients with familial hypercholesterolemia. Several case-control studies reported elevated Lp(a) levels in those patients, suggesting a role of the LDL-receptor pathway for degradation of Lp(a). However, recent turnover studies rejected that concept. Moreover, family studies also revealed data arguing against an influence of the LDL receptor for Lp(a) concentrations. Several rare diseases or disorders, such as LCAT- and LPL-deficiency as well as liver diseases, are associated with low plasma levels or lack of Lp(a).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arteriosclerosis / etiology
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / etiology
  • DNA / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus / etiology
  • Fibrinolysis
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipoproteinemias / etiology
  • Kidney Diseases / etiology
  • Lipoprotein(a) / genetics
  • Lipoprotein(a) / physiology*
  • Lipoprotein(a) / standards
  • Mice
  • Molecular Structure
  • Phenotype
  • Reference Standards


  • Lipoprotein(a)
  • DNA