The development of atherosclerosis is influenced by genetic, lifestyle and nutritional risk factors. Zn and metallothionein deficiency can enhance oxidative-stress-related signalling processes in endothelial cells, and since changes in available plasma Zn may affect the Zn status of the endothelium, Zn deficiency could be a risk factor for IHD. Although the association of Zn with many proteins is essential for their function, three key signalling processes are highlighted as being principal targets for the effect of Zn deficiency: the activation of NF-κB, the activation of caspase enzymes and the signalling of NO. The need to develop a reliable indicator of Zn status is critical to any epidemiological approach for studying the relationship between Zn status and disease incidence. Studies using appropriate animal models and investigating how the plasma Zn pool influences endothelial intracellular labile Zn would be helpful in appreciating the importance of Zn deficiency in atherogenesis.
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