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Environ Health Perspect. 2001 Aug;109(8):827-32.

The delta-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase (ALAD) polymorphism and bone and blood lead levels in community-exposed men: the Normative Aging Study.

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  • 1Occupational Health Program, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Recent research has indicated that a polymorphic variant of delta-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase (ALAD) may influence an individual's level of lead in bone and blood and, as a result, may also influence an individual's susceptibility to lead toxicity. In this study, we investigated whether this ALAD polymorphism is associated with altered levels of lead in bone and blood among 726 middle-aged and elderly men who had community (nonoccupational) exposures to lead. We measured levels of blood and bone lead by graphite furnace atomic absorption spectroscopy and a K X-ray fluorescence (KXRF) instrument, respectively. We determined the ALAD MspI polymorphism in exon 4 by a polymerase chain reaction restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP). Of the 726 subjects, 7 (1%) and 111 (15%) were, respectively, homozygous and heterozygous for the variant allele. The mean (SD) of blood lead (micrograms per deciliter), cortical bone (tibia) lead (micrograms per gram), and trabecular bone (patella) lead (micrograms per gram) were 6.2 (4.1), 22.1 (13.5), and 31.9 (19.5) in subjects who did not have the variant allele (ALAD 1-1), and 5.7 (4.2), 21.2 (10.9), and 30.4 (17.2) in the combined subjects who were either heterozygous or homozygous for the variant allele (ALAD 1-2 and ALAD 2-2). In multivariate linear regression models that controlled for age, education, smoking, alcohol ingestion, and vitamin D intake, the ALAD 1-1 genotype was associated with cortical bone lead levels that were 2.55 microg/g [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.05-5.05] higher than those of the variant allele carriers. We found no significant differences by genotype with respect to lead levels in trabecular bone or blood. In stratified analyses and a multivariate regression model that tested for interaction, the relationship of trabecular bone lead to blood lead appeared to be significantly modified by ALAD genotype, with variant allele carriers having higher blood lead levels, but only when trabecular bone lead levels exceeded 60 microg/g. These results suggest that the variant ALAD-2 allele modifies lead kinetics possibly by decreasing lead uptake into cortical bone and increasing the mobilization of lead from trabecular bone.

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