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Environ Health Perspect. 2002 May;110(5):501-5.

ApoE genotype, past adult lead exposure, and neurobehavioral function.

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Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


Our objective in this study was to determine if the known relation between tibia bone lead levels and neurobehavioral test scores are influenced by the apolipoprotein E (ApoE) genotype. We collected data on 20 neurobehavioral tests in 529 former organolead workers who had an average of 16 years since last occupational exposure to lead. We used linear regression to model the relations between each of 20 neurobehavioral test scores and tibia lead, a binary variable for ApoE genotype (i.e., at least one Epsilon4 allele vs. none), and an interaction term between tibia lead and the binary term for ApoE genotype. At the time of testing, former lead workers were an average of 57.6 years of age; 82% were younger than 65 years. In regression analysis, we observed one statistically significant and one borderline significant coefficient for ApoE genotype alone. Coefficients for the ApoE and tibia lead interaction term were negative in 19 of the 20 regression models. This indicates that the slope for the relation between tibia lead and each neurobehavioral test was more negative for individuals with at least one Epsilon4 allele than for those who did not have an Epsilon4 allele. Four of 19 negative coefficients for the interaction term were statistically significant (digit symbol, Purdue pegboard assembly, Purdue pegboard-dominant hand, complex reaction time); another three of the remaining 16 coefficients (symbol digit, trail-making A, Stroop) were borderline significant (i.e., p < 0.10). This study suggests that individuals may vary in susceptibility to the long-term effects of lead on the central nervous system (CNS). In particular, the persistent CNS effect of lead may be more toxic in individuals who have at least one ApoE-Epsilon4 allele.

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