Accumulation of plasma-derived lipids in the lipid core and necrotic core of human atheroma: Imaging mass spectrometry and histopathological analyses

Kazunori Nakagawa, Mitsuru Tanaka, Tae Hun Hahm, Huu Nghi Nguyen, Toshiro Matsui, Yong Xiang Chen, Yutaka Nakashima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To clarify the pathogenesis of human atheroma, the origin of deposited lipids, the developmental mechanism of liponecrotic tissue, and the significance of the oxidation of phospholipids were investigated using mass spectrometry-aided imaging and immunohistochemistry. APPROACH AND RESULTS: Atherosclerotic lesions in human coronary arteries were divided into 3 groups: Pathologic intimal thickening with lipid pool, atheroma with lipid core, and atheroma with necrotic core. The lipid pool and lipid core were characterized by the deposition of extracellular lipids. The necrotic core comprised extracellular lipids and liponecrotic tissue. The proportion of cholesteryl linoleate in cholesteryl linoleate+cholesteryl oleate fraction in the extracellular lipid and liponecrotic regions differed significantly from that of the macrophage foam cell-dominant region, and the plasma-derived components (apolipoprotein B and fibrinogen) were localized in the regions. The liponecrotic region was devoid of elastic and collagen fibers and accompanied by macrophage infiltration in the surrounding tissue. Non-oxidized phospholipid (Non-OxPL), OxPL, and Mox macrophages were detected in the three lesions. In the atheroma with lipid core and atheroma with necrotic core, non-OxPL tended to localize in the superficial layer, whereas OxPL was distributed evenly. Mox macrophages were colocalized with OxPL epitopes. CONCLUSIONS: In human atherosclerosis, plasma-derived lipids accumulate to form the lipid pool of pathologic intimal thickening, lipid core of atheroma with lipid core, and necrotic core of atheroma with necrotic core. The liponecrotic tissue in the necrotic core appears to be developed by the loss of elastic and collagen fibers. Non-OxPL in the accumulated lipids is oxidized to form OxPL, which may contribute to the lesion development through Mox macrophages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E498-E511
JournalArteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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