Factor H-related protein 1 (FHR-1) is associated with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ACVD) is a lipid-driven inflammatory disease and one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Lipid deposits in the arterial wall lead to the formation of plaques that involve lipid oxidation, cellular necrosis, and complement activation, resulting in inflammation and thrombosis. The present study found that homozygous deletion of the CFHR1 gene, which encodes the plasma complement protein factor H-related protein 1 (FHR-1), was protective in two cohorts of patients with ACVD, suggesting that FHR-1 accelerates inflammation and exacerbates the disease. To test this hypothesis, FHR-1 was isolated from human plasma and was found to circulate on extracellular vesicles and to be deposited in atherosclerotic plaques. Surface-bound FHR-1 induced the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and tissue factor in both monocytes and neutrophils. Notably, plasma concentrations of FHR-1, but not of factor H, were significantly (p < 0.001) elevated in patients with ACVD, and correlated with the expression of the inflammation markers C-reactive protein, apolipoprotein serum amyloid protein A, and neopterin. FHR-1 expression also significantly correlated with plasma concentrations of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (p < 0.0001) but not high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Taken together, these findings suggest that FHR-1 is associated with ACVD.