Gamma-glutamyl transferase and cardiovascular disease
Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) is an enzyme located on the external surface of cellular membranes. GGT contributes in maintaining the physiological concentrations of cytoplasmic glutathione and cellular defense against oxidative stress via cleavage of extracellular glutathione and increased availability of amino acids for its intracellular synthesis. Increased GGT activity is a marker of antioxidant inadequacy and increased oxidative stress. Ample evidence suggests that elevated GGT activity is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) such as coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, arterial hypertension, heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias and all-cause and CVD-related mortality. The evidence is weaker for an association between elevated GGT activity and acute ischemic events and myocardial infarction. The risk for CVD or CVD-related mortality mediated by GGT may be explained by the close correlation of GGT with conventional CVD risk factors and various comorbidities, particularly non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, alcohol consumption, oxidative stress, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and systemic inflammation. The finding of GGT activity in atherosclerotic plaques and correlation of intra-plaque GGT activity with histological indexes of plaque instability may suggest a participation of GGT in the pathophysiology of CVD, particularly atherosclerosis. However, whether GGT has a direct role in the pathophysiology of CVD or it is an epiphenomenon of coexisting CVD risk factors or comorbidities remains unknown and Hill’s criteria of causality relationship between GGT and CVD are not fulfilled. The exploration whether GGT provides prognostic information on top of the information provided by known cardiovascular risk factors regarding the CVD or CVD-related outcome and exploration of molecular mechanisms of GGT involvement in the pathophysiology of CVD and eventual use of interventions to reduce circulating GGT activity remain a duty of future studies.