Aim: The degradation of the vascular extracellular matrix is important for atherosclerosis. The cysteine protease legumain was shown to be upregulated in atherosclerotic plaques, especially unstable plaques. However, no study has reported blood legumain levels in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD).
Methods: We investigated plasma legumain and C-reactive protein (CRP) levels in 372 patients undergoing elective coronary angiography.
Results: CAD was found in 225 patients. Compared with patients without CAD, those with CAD had higher CRP levels (median 0.60 [0.32, 1.53] vs. 0.46 [0.22, 0.89] mg/L, P＜0.001), but no difference was found in legumain levels between patients with and without CAD (median 5.08 [3.87, 6.82] vs. 4.99 [3.84, 6.88] ng/mL). A stepwise increase in CRP was found depending on the number of ＞50% stenotic vessels: 0.55 mg/L in 1-vessel, 0.71 mg/L in 2-vessel, and 0.86 mg/L in 3-vessel diseases (P＜0.001). However, legumain did not differ among 1-, 2-, and 3-vessel diseases (5.20, 4.93, and 5.01 ng/mL, respectively). Of 225 patients with CAD, 40 (18%) had complex lesions. No difference was found in CRP levels between patients with CAD with and without complex lesions (0.60 [0.34, 1.53] vs. 0.60 [0.32, 1.51] mg/L). Notably, legumain levels were higher in patients with CAD with complex lesions than without such lesions (6.05 [4.64, 8.64] vs. 4.93 [3.76, 6.52] ng/mL, P＜0.01). In multivariate analysis, legumain levels were not a factor for CAD, but were a factor for complex lesions. The odds ratio for complex lesions was 2.45 (95% CI=1.26–4.79) for legumain ＞5.5 ng/mL.
Conclusion: Plasma legumain levels were associated with the presence of complex coronary lesions.