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Mutations of the 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (11β-HSD2) gene cause the syndrome of apparent mineralocorticoid excess, a rare autosomal recessive form of hypertension. We therefore investigated the question of whether variants of the 11β-HSD2 gene can contribute to genetic susceptibility to essential hypertension.We performed a linkage study in 162 French hypertensive sibships using the affected sib-pair method on 347 sibling pairs and a polymorphic microsatellite marker that we identified in a 30 kb cosmid clone containing the 11β-HSD2 gene. The coding sequence, introns 2–4 and 350 bp of the 5′-flanking region of the 11β-HSD2 gene were screened for polymorphisms by polymerase chain reaction/single-strand conformation polymorphism, and a single polymorphism, Glu178/Glu (G534A), was identified in exon 3, which did not change the encoded amino acid sequence. A case–control study was conducted on 370 hypertensive subjects with a positive family history of hypertension and 783 French subjects with hypertension with or without a family history of hypertension, compared with 313 normotensive control subjects, all of whom were analyzed for the newly identified bi-allelic polymorphism.Statistical analyses using the affected sib-pair method did not show significant linkage between the 11β-HSD2 microsatellite marker and hypertension. Furthermore, no positive association with hypertension was found with the Glu178/Glu (G534A) polymorphism.Our data do not suggest that variants of the 11β-HSD2 gene contribute substantially to essential hypertension in Caucasians.