Cardiovascular risk is associated with high lipoprotein( a) (Lp(a)) concentrations and low molecular weight apolipoprotein(a) (apo(a)) isoforms. We studied the relationship between these two biological parameters, particularly in subjects expressing two apo(a) isoforms. Plasma Lp(a) was measured by immunonephelometry in 530 unrelated Caucasian patients at high cardiovascular risk, and apo(a) size determined by immunoblotting using a recombinant standard. Two, one, or no apo(a) isoforms were detected in 258, 270, and 2 subjects, respectively. Lp(a) concentrations showed a non-Gaussian distribution, being higher in the ‘double band’ than in the ‘single band’ group (median 0.42 vs. 0.11 g/l, p < 0.0005). Apo(a) size distribution was bimodal, with two frequency peaks at 18 kringles (K) and 27 K. Small size apo(a) isoforms were more frequently found in the ‘double band’ group, where major isoforms were of lower size than minor isoforms (median 20 vs. 27 K). Regression analysis showed that apo(a) gene length accounted for 33% of Lp(a) variation, with a threshold effect at 20 K, no correlation being found over this value. The minor apo(a) isoform did not significantly influence Lp(a) concentration. These data confirm the relationship between apo(a) size and Lp(a) concentration and suggest that the assessment of cardiovascular risk should take into account the threshold effect at 20 K and the absence of influence of the minor apo(a) isoform.
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