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Atherosclerosis. 1991 Nov;91(1-2):97-106.

The NHLBI Twin Study: heritability of apolipoprotein A-I, B, and low density lipoprotein subclasses and concordance for lipoprotein(a).

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Lipid Metabolism Laboratory, USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111.


Heritability of plasma apolipoprotein (apo) A-I, apo B, and low density lipoprotein (LDL) subclasses and concordance for lipoprotein(a) excess were assessed in 109 monozygotic (MZ) and 113 dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs participating in the third examination of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Twin Study. The intraclass correlation coefficient for apo A-I was significantly greater in MZ twins (0.56) than in DZ twins (0.37, P less than 0.05); however, apo A-I showed an unequal distribution in the two groups, with significantly greater total variance in DZ twins. Therefore the among-component estimate of genetic variance was applied, and the results indicated no significant heritability for apo A-I (P = 0.59). MZ and DZ twins had equal apo B variance. The intraclass correlation coefficient for apo B in MZ twins (0.71) was significantly higher than in DZ twins (0.25) (P less than 0.0001), indicating significant heritability for apo B. Plasma apo A-I levels were significantly correlated with alcohol intake (P less than 0.0001), body mass index (BMI, P less than 0.0001), and physical activity, while apo B levels were significantly correlated only with BMI (P less than 0.05). After plasma apo A-I and apo B concentrations were adjusted for all of these variables and for cigarette smoking, the analysis of variance and intraclass correlation coefficients remained virtually unchanged. The LDL type intraclass correlation coefficient was higher in MZ twins (0.58) than in DZ twins (0.32, P less than 0.005); however, greater total variance for this parameter in DZ twins was observed and after applying the among component estimate of genetic variance, no significant heritability of LDL type was observed. After adjustment for covariate effects the conclusions were not changed. Only 8.4% of MZ twin pairs, as compared with 26.7% of DZ twin pairs, were discordant for elevated lipoprotein(a) on gradient gels (P less than 0.0001). Our data indicate that there is a strong heritability for plasma apo B and lipoprotein(a), with only weak evidence for heritability of LDL type or plasma apo A-I levels within this population sample.

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