The neurotrophin (NT) family, including nerve growth factor NT-3 and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), has a critical role in the survival, growth, maintenance, and death of central and peripheral neurons. NTs and their receptors are expressed in atherosclerotic lesions; however, their significance in cardiovascular disease remains unclear.
METHODS AND RESULTS:
To clarify the role of NTs in the pathogenesis of coronary artery disease, NT plasma levels in the aorta, coronary sinus, and peripheral veins of patients with unstable angina (n=38), stable effort angina (n=45), and non-coronary artery disease (n=24) were examined. In addition, regional expression of BDNF in coronary arteries was examined in autopsy cases and patients with angina pectoris by directional coronary atherectomy. The difference in BDNF levels, but not NT-3, between the coronary sinus and aorta was significantly greater in the unstable angina group compared with the stable effort angina and non-coronary artery disease groups. Immunohistochemical investigations demonstrated BDNF expression in the atheromatous intima and adventitia in atherosclerotic coronary arteries. BDNF expression was enhanced in macrophages and smooth muscle cells in atherosclerotic coronary arteries. Stimulation with recombinant BDNF significantly enhanced NAD(P)H oxidase activity and the generation of reactive oxygen species in cultured human coronary artery smooth muscle cells.
BDNF has an important role in atherogenesis and plaque instability via the activation of NAD(P)H oxidase.