Aim: In patients with carotid plaque, intraplaque hemorrhage arising from ruptured neovascular vessels within the neointima is an important cause of stroke. The expression of Vasohibin-1 (VASH1), a negative feedback regulator of angiogenesis, occurs in the microvessel endothelial cells of various solid tumors and the arterial wall. However, the roles of VASH1 in the pathogenesis of atherosclerotic diseases remain unclear. The present study aimed to clarify the relevance of the VASH1 expression and plaque instability in human carotid plaques. Methods: We used quantitative real-time PCR and immunostaining to examine 12 atheromatous plaque specimens obtained via carotid endarterectomy. The distal areas of specimens lacking macroscopic atherosclerotic lesions served as controls. Results: Compared with that observed in the controls, the VASH1 gene expression increased significantly in the atheromatous plaque (p=0.018). Moreover, the VASH1 mRNA levels correlated positively with those of VEGFA, CD31 and VCAM1 (r =0.788, p=0.004; r =0.99, p＜0.001; r =0.94, p＜ 0.001, respectively). Finally, the immunohistochemical analyses revealed the VASH1 expression in the neointimal microvessel endothelial cells of carotid plaque. Conclusions: The VASH1 expression levels in atheroma reflect both enhanced neovascularization and the inflammatory burden. Therefore, the VASH1 level may be a novel biomarker for evaluating plaque instability in patients with carotid arteriosclerosis and predicting ischemic stroke.
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