Leukocyte Telomere Length Is Associated With High-Risk Plaques on Virtual Histology Intravascular Ultrasound and Increased Proinflammatory Activity
Objective—Leukocyte telomere length (LTL), a marker of cellular senescence, is inversely associated with cardiovascular events. However, whether LTL reflects plaque extent or unstable plaques, and the mechanisms underlying any association are unknown.
Methods and Results—One hundred seventy patients with stable angina or acute coronary syndrome referred for percutaneous coronary intervention underwent 3-vessel virtual histology intravascular ultrasound; 30 372 mm of intravascular ultrasound pullback and 1096 plaques were analyzed. LTL was not associated with plaque volume but was associated with calcified thin-capped fibroatheroma (OR, 1.24; CI, 1.01–1.53; P=0.039) and total fibroatheroma numbers (OR, 1.19; CI, 1.02–1.39; P=0.027). Monocytes from coronary artery disease patients showed increased secretion of proinflammatory cytokines. To mimic leukocyte senescence, we disrupted telomeres and binding and expression of the telomeric protein (protection of telomeres protein-1), inducing DNA damage. Telomere disruption increased monocyte secretion of MCP-1, IL-6, and IL-1β and oxidative burst, similar to that seen in coronary artery disease patients, and lymphocyte secretion of IL-2 and reduced lymphocyte IL-10.
Conclusion—Shorter LTL is associated with high-risk plaque morphology on virtual histology intravascular ultrasound but not total 3-vessel plaque burden. Monocytes with disrupted telomeres show increased proinflammatory activity, which is also seen in coronary artery disease patients, suggesting that telomere shortening promotes high-risk plaque subtypes by increasing proinflammatory activity.
- Received April 21, 2011.
- Accepted May 19, 2011.
- © 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.