OBJECTIVE: Many gene products involved in oxidation and inflammation are implicated in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. We investigated paraoxonase 2 (PON2), 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO), and 5-LO activating protein (FLAP) expression and malondialdehyde (MDA) levels in carotid lesions to assess their involvement in plaque formation. METHODS AND RESULTS: We measured gene expression and MDA levels in atherosclerotic plaques from 59 patients undergoing carotid endarterectomy, and in plaque-adjacent tissue from 41/59 patients. Twenty-three fetal carotids and 6 mammary arteries were also investigated. Real-time polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemistry revealed decreased PON2 expression in plaques versus adjacent regions (P<0.005, P<0.001, respectively), mammary arteries (P<0.031, P<0.001, respectively), and fetal carotids (both P<0.001). mRNA levels of 5-LO and FLAP were higher (P<0.038, P<0.005, respectively) in lesions versus fetal carotids. MDA was higher in plaques versus plaque-adjacent tissue and fetal carotids. PON2 mRNA was downregulated by oxidative stress in 5 ex vivo experiments, thereby indicating its possible atheroprotection role. CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrate that PON2 mRNA and protein are decreased in plaques versus plaque-adjacent tissue, mammary arteries, and fetal carotids. Our data indicate that the protective effect of PON2 could fail during atherosclerosis exacerbation; this was confirmed by the increase of MDA levels. The increase of 5-LO and FLAP mRNA expression confirms their role as inflammatory markers associated to atherosclerosis.