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The pepsinogen C (PGC) gene encodes a major differentiation biomarker for gastric mucosa and has two single nucleotide polymorphisms, rs9471643 G>C and rs6458238 G>A, within its 5′ upstream region that are involved in gastric carcinogenesis. However, in what genetic models the two polymorphisms modulate disease risk and how they relate to gastric carcinogenesis needs further study. We fitted the most appropriate genetic models to the PGC polymorphisms and validated their robustness; then with knowledge of the genetic model, we investigated the influence of functional variant alleles or genotypes on gene expression in vitro and in vivo. We confirmed that rs9471643 CG genotype was stably associated with reduced gastric cancer risk in complete overdominant model. This favorable CG genotype was also associated with reduced atrophic gastritis risk in subjects carrying rs6458238 AG/AA genotype. The G>C transition at rs9471643 enhanced promoter activity and transcription factor binding ability, and the CG genotype was consistently associated with elevated levels of PGC mRNA, in situ protein and serum protein in complete overdominant model based-analyses. Additionally, rs6458238 AG/AA genotype was associated with reduced atrophic gastritis risk in dominant model. Its favorable A allele was related to higher promoter activity and lower transcription factor binding ability, and the AG/AA genotype showed association with elevated levels of serum PGC protein in dominant model based-analyses. Our results suggest that rs9471643 CG and rs6458238 AG/AA genotypes have important roles in up-regulating PGC expression, which may partially explain why individuals with these favorable genotypes have decreased risks of getting gastric cancer. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.