Alpha globin gene copy number and hypertension risk among Black Americans

Academic Article


  • Background Alpha globin is expressed in the endothelial cells of human resistance arteries where it binds to endothelial nitric oxide synthase and limits release of the vasodilator nitric oxide. Genomic deletion of the alpha globin gene (HBA) is common among Black Americans and could lead to increased endothelial nitric oxide signaling and reduced risk of hypertension. Methods Community-dwelling US adults aged 45 years or older were enrolled and examined from 2003 to 2007, followed by telephone every 6 months, and reexamined from 2013 to 2016. At both visits, trained personnel performed standardized, in-home blood pressure measurements and pill bottle review. Prevalent hypertension was defined as systolic blood pressure ≥ 140mmHg or diastolic blood pressure ≥ 90mmHg or anti-hypertensive medication use. Droplet digital PCR was used to determine HBA copy number. The associations of HBA copy number with prevalent hypertension, resistant hypertension, and incident hypertension were estimated using multivariable regression. Results Among 9,684 Black participants, 7,439 (77%) had hypertension at baseline and 1,044 of those had treatment-resistant hypertension. 1,000 participants were not hypertensive at baseline and participated in a follow up visit; 517 (52%) developed hypertension over median 9.2 years follow-up. Increased HBA copy number was not associated with prevalent hypertension (PR = 1.00; 95%CI 0.98,1.02), resistant hypertension (PR = 0.95; 95%CI 0.86,1.05), or incident hypertension (RR = 0.96; 95%CI 0.86,1.07). Conclusions There were no associations between increased HBA copy number and risk of hypertension. These findings suggest that variation in alpha globin gene copy number does not modify the risk of hypertension among Black American adults.
  • Published In

  • PLoS One  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Ruhl AP; Jeffries N; Yang Y; Gutierrez OM; Muntner P; Naik RP; Pecker LH; Mott BT; Zakai NA; Safford MM
  • Volume

  • 17
  • Issue

  • 7 July