Synergistic effect of Toll-like receptor 4 and CD14 polymorphisms on the total atherosclerosis burden in patients with peripheral arterial disease

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Genes involved in the regulation of immune responses, such as Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) and CD14, show genetic variations with potential functional implications. Because atherosclerosis is an inflammatory process apparently modulated by chronic infections, we studied the effect of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in TLR4 and CD14 on the extent of clinically relevant atherosclerosis in patients with peripheral arterial disease (PAD).


Using an in-house–developed polymerase chain reaction–based restriction length polymorphism assay, we determined the genotype, allele frequency, and carrier traits of the TLR4 +896 A>G and the CD14 −260 C>T SNPs in 607 white Dutch patients with PAD. The extent of clinically relevant atherosclerosis was determined on the basis of the number of vascular territories involved, ie, coronary, cerebral, aortic, and peripheral.


A total of 55% of the patients had PAD only. Approximately one third of the patients had two and 11% had three vascular territories affected by clinically relevant atherosclerosis. The TLR4 +866 G allele frequency was 11%, and the CD14 −260 T allele frequency was approximately 74%. Among PAD patients, TLR4 +896 G allele carriership was univariantly associated with extensive (more than two vascular territories affected) atherosclerotic disease (odds ratio, 2.22; P = .020; χ2 test), whereas CD14 −260 C>T carriership/homozygosity was not. Trend analysis showed that the TLR4 +866 G allele frequency increased with the number of vascular territories affected by clinically relevant atherosclerosis (P trend, .0074). In a multivariate logistic regression analysis including cardiovascular risk factors and TLR4 and CD14 SNPs, only the interaction variable “TLR4 +896 G allele carriership/CD14 −260 TT genotype” survived as an independent predictor of extensive atherosclerotic disease (P = .031; odds ratio, 4.2; 95% confidence interval, 1.1–15.4).


The carrier trait TLR4 G allele/CD14 TT genotype, rather than each SNP individually, is associated with the extent of clinically relevant atherosclerotic disease. Considering the importance of immune responses in atherogenesis and the genetic variation of immune regulatory genes, our data provide an explanation for interindividual differences in susceptibility to atherosclerosis and demonstrate the need to take a wider approach in analyzing relevant carrier traits instead of individual polymorphisms in relation to atherosclerosis.

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