The BK channel β1 subunit gene is associated with human baroreflex and blood pressure regulation


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Abstract

Background The baroreflex, which is important for the minute-to-minute regulation of blood pressure and heart rate, is influenced by genetic variance. Ion channels are important to baroreflex afferent and efferent function. Mice missing the β1 subunit of the Ca2+-sensitive potassium channel (BK) are hypertensive and have a reset baroreflex. We tested the hypothesis that variants in the gene (KCNMB1) coding for the BK β1 subunit are associated with baroreflex function.Methods We studied six single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in KCNMB1.Results Four SNPs in intron 3, exon 4a, exon 4b and exon 4c gave significant results. For instance, exon 4b SNP AA individuals had higher heart rate variability, compared to CA, or CC persons, in particular in the high-frequency range. The low-frequency range showed no association. Consistent with the heart rate variability data, homozygous AA persons had greater baroreflex slopes than CA or CC persons, also in the high-frequency range. These associations could not be shown in the low-frequency range for heart rate variability and baroreflex slopes.Conclusions These data support the notion that variants in channel genes may be responsible for the great range in heart rate variability and baroreflex function observed in humans. Such variation may also play a role in the development of hypertension.

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