In silico analyses of metagenomes from human atherosclerotic plaque samples

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BACKGROUND: Through several observational and mechanistic studies, microbial infection is known to promote cardiovascular disease. Direct infection of the vessel wall, along with the cardiovascular risk factors, is hypothesized to play a key role in the atherogenesis by promoting an inflammatory response leading to endothelial dysfunction and generating a proatherogenic and prothrombotic environment ultimately leading to clinical manifestations of cardiovascular disease, e.g., acute myocardial infarction or stroke. There are many reports of microbial DNA isolation and even a few studies of viable microbes isolated from human atherosclerotic vessels. However, high-resolution investigation of microbial infectious agents from human vessels that may contribute to atherosclerosis is very limited. In spite of the progress in recent sequencing technologies, analyzing host-associated metagenomes remain a challenge.

RESULTS: To investigate microbiome diversity within human atherosclerotic tissue samples, we employed high-throughput metagenomic analysis on: (1) atherosclerotic plaques obtained from a group of patients who underwent endarterectomy due to recent transient cerebral ischemia or stroke. (2) Presumed stabile atherosclerotic plaques obtained from autopsy from a control group of patients who all died from causes not related to cardiovascular disease. Our data provides evidence that suggest a wide range of microbial agents in atherosclerotic plaques, and an intriguing new observation that shows these microbiota displayed differences between symptomatic and asymptomatic plaques as judged from the taxonomic profiles in these two groups of patients. Additionally, functional annotations reveal significant differences in basic metabolic and disease pathway signatures between these groups.

CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrate the feasibility of novel high-resolution techniques aimed at identification and characterization of microbial genomes in human atherosclerotic tissue samples. Our analysis suggests that distinct groups of microbial agents might play different roles during the development of atherosclerotic plaques. These findings may serve as a reference point for future studies in this area of research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number38
Pages (from-to)1-14
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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