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Am J Hum Genet. 1992 Oct;51(4):829-40.

Lipoprotein(a) in women twins: heritability and relationship to apolipoprotein(a) phenotypes.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle 98195.


Lp(a) is a unique lipoprotein consisting of an LDL-like particle and a characteristic protein, apo(a). Increased levels of Lp(a) constitute a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Variation in the size of the apo(a) protein is a phenotype controlled by the apo(a) gene on chromosome 6 and is related to Lp(a) plasma levels. Based on 169 MZ and 125 DZ adult female twin pairs, this study's purpose was to estimate the proportion of the variation in Lp(a) levels that is due to genetic influences and to determine the extent to which the apo(a) locus explains this heritability. Lp(a) levels were significantly more similar in MZ twins than in DZ twins: mean co-twin differences were 3.9 +/- 5.7 mg/dl and 16.0 +/- 19.9 mg/dl (P less than .001), respectively. Intraclass correlations were .94 in MZ twins and .32 in DZ twins, resulting in a heritability estimate of .94 (P less than .001). Heritability was then calculated using only co-twins with the same apo(a) phenotype: the heritability estimate decreased to .45 but was still highly significant (P less than .001). Therefore, on the basis of heritability analysis of women twins, Lp(a) levels are almost entirely genetically controlled. Variation at the apo(a) locus contributes to this heritability, although other genetic factors could be involved.

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