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Circulation. 2007 May 1;115(17):2282-91. Epub 2007 Apr 16.

Heredity of endothelin secretion: human twin studies reveal the influence of polymorphism at the chromogranin A locus, a novel determinant of endothelial function.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of California at San Diego, USA.



Endothelial dysfunction predisposes to vascular injury in association with hypertension. Endothelin (ET-1) is a potent vasoactive peptide that is synthesized and released by the vascular endothelium and is a marker of endothelial function. Chromogranin A (CHGA) regulates the storage and release of catecholamines and may have direct actions on the microvasculature. CHGA, a candidate gene for intermediate phenotypes that contribute to hypertension, shows a pattern of single nucleotide polymorphism variations that alter the expression and function of this gene both in vivo and in vitro.


In a study of twins (n=238 pairs), plasma ET-1 was 58+/-5% (P<0.0001) heritable. Plasma ET-1 was both correlated and associated with chromogranin fragment levels, and the 2 were influenced by shared genetic determination (pleiotropy [rhoG]; for the CHGA precursor, rhoG=0.318+/-0.105; P=0.0032). We therefore hypothesized that variation in the CHGA gene may influence ET-1 secretion. Carriers of the CHGA promoter -988G, -462A, and -89A minor alleles showed significantly higher mean plasma ET-1 than their major allele homozygote counterparts (P=0.02, P=0.006, P=0.03, respectively). Analysis of a linkage disequilibrium block that spans these 3 single nucleotide polymorphisms showed a significant association between the GATACA haplotype and plasma ET-1 (P=0.0075). In cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells, CHGA caused dose-dependent secretion of ET-1 over a brief (<1 hour) time course at relatively low concentrations of CHGA (10 to 100 nmol/L) with a threshold concentration (10 nmol/L) in the range found circulating in humans in vivo.


These results suggest that common, heritable variation in expression of the human CHGA gene influences endothelial ET-1 secretion in vivo, explained by a CHGA stimulus/ET-1 secretion coupling in endothelial cells in vitro. The findings document a previously unsuspected interaction between the sympathochromaffin system and the endothelium and suggest novel genetic and cell biological approaches to the prediction, diagnosis, and mechanism of endothelial dysfunction in human disease.

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