Positive Association of Tyrosine Hydroxylase Microsatellite Marker to Essential Hypertension

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Despite advances in the understanding of monogenic hypertensive disorders, the genetic contribution to essential hypertension has yet to be elucidated. The position of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) as the rate-limiting enzyme in catecholamine biosynthesis renders it a candidate gene for the etiology of hypertension. The TH gene contains an internal, informative microsatellite marker (TCAT)9. We undertook (1) an association study in a group of well-characterized hypertensive subjects (HT) and control subjects (NT) and (2) an affected sibling pair (ASP) study using sibships from our local family practices. Two hundred twenty-seven hypertensive patients (pretreatment systolic/diastolic blood pressure [BP] range, 139/94 to 237/133 mm Hg; age range [SD], 30 to 71 [8.5] years) were age- and gender-matched with 206 control subjects (BP range, 96/62 to 153/86 mm Hg; age range, 40 to 70 [7.6] years). One hundred thirty-six affected sibling pairs were recruited for our linkage study; 73 young borderline hypertensive subjects (YHT) (pretreatment BP range, 123/76 to 197/107 mm Hg; age range, 20 to 51 [9.4] years) were also recruited in whom recent pretreatment norepinephrine and epinephrine levels were available. All subjects were white. The TH short tandem repeat (STR) was amplified using specific polymerase chain reaction cycling conditions in all subjects, and products were run on an ABI 373A sequencer. TH alleles were assigned using Genescan and Genotyper software. Five TH alleles were present and designated A through E. Allele frequencies in the NT population (A, B, C, D, and E: 0.24, 0.17, 0.13, 0.20, and 0.26, respectively) were significantly different from the HT cohort (A, B, C, D, and E: 0.24, 0.19, 0.11, 0.11, and 0.35, respectively), P<0.0005 (Pearson's test chi squared=19.94; 4 df). The E allele appears overrepresented in the HT group, whereas the D allele appears to be overrepresented in the NT group. TH genotype frequencies were also significantly different between cases and controls (P<0.001; chi squared=36.57; 14 df). Both groups were in Hardy-Weinberg proportion. There was a trend (NS) for the D allele to be associated with a lower BP when BP was analyzed as a quantitative trait. ASP linkage data was analyzed using Splink, a nonparametric program. Expected values for sharing 0, 1, and 2 alleles (Z0, Z1, and Z2, respectively) may be expected to be 25%, 50%, and 25%, respectively, by chance (assuming identity by descent). These probabilities were calculated by Splink as 34, 68, and 34, respectively, and compared with observed values of 36.8, 67.9, and 31.3, respectively; thus, there was no excess sharing of TH alleles among affected sibling pairs (P=0.59; logarithm of odds ratio score, 0.0). TH allele frequencies in our YHT group (A, B, C, D, and E: 0.24, 0.20, 0.12, 0.15, and 0.29, respectively) were similar to those of our NT cohort (P>0.05). There was a trend for lower pretreatment plasma norepinephrine levels with the D allele in this YHT cohort. A common and potentially functional variant at codon 81Val[right arrow]Met within exon 2 of the TH gene (which we show to be in linkage disequilibrium with TH-STR) was also typed in our YHT but did not associate with catecholamine levels and is therefore unlikely to account for our findings with D and E TH-STR. In conclusion, the TH locus strongly associates with essential hypertension in a case-control model using well-characterized hypertensive and control groups. An ASP linkage model was negative, presumably because of lack of power. This study suggests that the TH gene, or a nearby gene, may be involved in the etiology of essential hypertension. (Hypertension. 1998;32:676-682.)

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