We investigated the oxidative modifications of lipids, proteins and DNA, three potential molecular targets of oxidative stress, in 30 patients with angiographically defined coronary artery disease (CAD) and 30 healthy control subjects. In addition, we examined relationships between these oxidative modifications and the severity of vascular lesions in patients with CAD. Malondialdehyde (MDA) and protein carbonyl (PC) levels, as well as ferric reducing antioxidant power (FRAP), were measured in the plasma. DNA damage was evaluated as single strand breaks (SSBs), formamidopyrimidine glycosylase (Fpg) and endonuclease III (E-III)-sensitive sites by the cornet assay in DNA isolated from lymphocytes. MDA and PC levels increased, but FRAP values decreased, in patients as compared to controls. However, these values did not vary with the number of affected coronary vessels and were not correlated with Duke score, a parameter of the severity of vascular lesions in patients with CAD. We also found that lymphocyte DNA damage (SSBs, Fpg and E-III sites) were increased in patients. Although there were no significant differences in SSBs values ill patients grouped according to affected vessel number, Fpg and E-III sites increased. We also detected significant correlations between Duke scores and SSBs and Fpg sites. Serum cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL-cholesterol levels were found to increase, but HDL-cholesterol levels decreased in CAD patients, but these lipids were not correlated with Duke scores. The results of this Study reinforce the presence of increased combined oxidative modifications in lipid, protein and DNA in patients with CAD. However, lymphocyte DNA damage seems to be a more reliable assay than MDA and PC determinations to detect the severity of vascular lesions in patients. (C) 2005 The Canadian Society of Clinical Chemists. All rights reserved.