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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2000 Sep;20(9):E41-52.

Clinical expression of familial hypercholesterolemia in clusters of mutations of the LDL receptor gene that cause a receptor-defective or receptor-negative phenotype.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa, Italy.


Seventy-one mutations of the low density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor gene were identified in 282 unrelated Italian familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) heterozygotes. By extending genotype analysis to families of the index cases, we identified 12 mutation clusters and localized them in specific areas of Italy. To evaluate the impact of these mutations on the clinical expression of FH, the clusters were separated into 2 groups: receptor-defective and receptor-negative, according to the LDL receptor defect caused by each mutation. These 2 groups were comparable in terms of the patients' age, sex distribution, body mass index, arterial hypertension, and smoking status. In receptor-negative subjects, LDL cholesterol was higher (+18%) and high density lipoprotein cholesterol lower (-5%) than the values found in receptor-defective subjects. The prevalence of tendon xanthomas and coronary artery disease (CAD) was 2-fold higher in receptor-negative subjects. In patients >30 years of age in both groups, the presence of CAD was related to age, arterial hypertension, previous smoking, and LDL cholesterol level. Independent contributors to CAD in the receptor-defective subjects were male sex, arterial hypertension, and LDL cholesterol level; in the receptor-negative subjects, the first 2 variables were strong predictors of CAD, whereas the LDL cholesterol level had a lower impact than in receptor-defective subjects. Overall, in receptor-negative subjects, the risk of CAD was 2.6-fold that of receptor-defective subjects. Wide interindividual variability in LDL cholesterol levels was found in each cluster. Apolipoprotein E genotype analysis showed a lowering effect of the epsilon2 allele and a raising effect of the epsilon4 allele on the LDL cholesterol level in both groups; however, the apolipoprotein E genotype accounted for only 4% of the variation in LDL cholesterol. Haplotype analysis showed that all families of the major clusters shared the same intragenic haplotype cosegregating with the mutation, thus suggesting the presence of common ancestors.

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