Progression of atherosclerosis is currently believed to involve interactions between leukocytes and vascular endothelium. Epidemiological risk factors for atherosclerosis such as hypertension and smoking are known to cause endothelial dysfunction, which is an early event in the atherosclerotic process; they also may be considered in the light of their effects on adhesion molecule expression and release. Little is known about the additive effect between these two risk factors on endothelial adhesion molecule expression and nitric oxide release. Soluble adhesion molecules and the nitric oxide were quantified in smoking hypertensive patients in comparison to those from patients with hypertension alone. Cotinine, a stable metabolite of nicotine, has been used to identify smokers. One hundred and three hypertensive patients were selected: 51 smokers (plasma cotinine levels >25 ng/ml) and 52 non-smokers. Plasma concentrations of soluble intercellular cell adhesion molecule-1 (sICAM-1), soluble endothelial leukocyte adhesion molecule-1 (sELAM-1) and soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (sVCAM-l) were quantified with ELISA methods. Plasma concentration of nitric oxide metabolites was measured by HPLC, whilst plasma concentration of cotinine was measured by RIA.
Significant increases of sICAM-1 and sVCAM-1 were demonstrated in smokers (p<0.001 and p<0.05, respectively). In the same patients, a positive significant correlation between sVCAM-1 and plasma cotinine levels was observed (p<0.002). Nitric oxide metabolites were reduced significantly (p<0.04) in smokers.
In conclusion, our data show that the two risk factors, smoking and hypertension, are additive risk factors in generating endothelial dysfunction and vascular damage, which plays a key role in atherogenesis.
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