Sympathetic Nerve Activity in Monozygotic Twins: Identical at Rest but Not During Arousal

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Abstract

Microneurographic recordings of human muscle sympathetic nerve activity responses to sudden sensory stimuli (ie, arousal) have revealed 2 intraindividually reproducible response profiles in healthy young males that predict different neural and blood pressure responses to more sustained stress. Approximately 50% of subjects inhibit muscle sympathetic nerve activity during arousal, whereas the remaining 50% do not, and the latter group displays a markedly greater blood pressure increase in response to arousal, as well as during and after 3 minutes of mental arithmetic. Studying a group of monozygotic twins (10 pairs, 2 excluded from analysis), the aim of the present study was to evaluate the degree of genetic determination of these sympathetic response profiles. Muscle sympathetic burst incidence at rest was similar in twins, with a within-pair burst incidence ratio of 0.87±0.02 (SEM) compared with 0.73±0.07 found in unrelated pairs (P=0.002), confirming a previous study from our laboratory. In contrast, the sympathetic responses to arousal showed large twin within-pair variance (arousal inhibition ratio 0.56±0.11), which did not significantly differ (P=0.939) from the variance in pairs of unrelated subjects (0.46±0.11). The finding that human muscle sympathetic nerve responses to arousal are less determined by genotype than the resting level of corresponding sympathetic nerve activity suggests that the arousal response pattern is more prone to be altered by environmental factors. This raises the possibility that these intraindividually reproducible sympathetic neural response profiles can be modified in a positive direction from a cardiovascular risk perspective.

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