February 09, 2006

Ethnicity-specific disease risk in African Americans

This paper shows how a particular gene variant was introduced to the African American population by admixture with Europeans and how African Americans are at a higher risk of heart disease because of it.

This illustrates how a gene that has originated in one population can lead to problems when it is found in a different genetic-environmental context.

Nature Genetics 38, 68 - 74 (2006)
Published online: 10 November 2005; | doi:10.1038/ng1692

A variant of the gene encoding leukotriene A4 hydrolase confers ethnicity-specific risk of myocardial infarction

Anna Helgadottir et al.

Variants of the gene ALOX5AP (also known as FLAP) encoding arachidonate 5-lipoxygenase activating protein are known to be associated with risk of myocardial infarction1. Here we show that a haplotype (HapK) spanning the LTA4H gene encoding leukotriene A4 hydrolase, a protein in the same biochemical pathway as ALOX5AP, confers modest risk of myocardial infarction in an Icelandic cohort. Measurements of leukotriene B4 (LTB4) production suggest that this risk is mediated through upregulation of the leukotriene pathway. Three cohorts from the United States also show that HapK confers a modest relative risk (1.16) in European Americans, but it confers a threefold larger risk in African Americans. About 27% of the European American controls carried at least one copy of HapK, as compared with only 6% of African American controls. Our analyses indicate that HapK is very rare in Africa and that its occurrence in African Americans is due to European admixture. Interactions with other genetic or environmental risk factors that are more common in African Americans are likely to account for the greater relative risk conferred by HapK in this group.


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