Author(s): Hung J
The insertion/deletion (I/D) polymorphism of the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) gene has been associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, but whether it is a risk factor for underlying atherosclerosis remains unclear. Therefore, we examined to see whether the ACE gene deletion polymorphism was associated with carotid wall thickening and atherosclerotic plaque formation in a large randomly selected community population. A total of 1111 subjects, aged 27 to 77 years, with an equal male:female ratio and equal numbers in each age decile, were randomly selected from the Perth community population. Mean common carotid intima-medial wall thickness (IMT) and focal plaque formation were assessed by high-resolution B-mode ultrasound. The ACE gene I/D polymorphism was detected by PCR. The distribution of the ACE genotypes conformed to the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium (DD, 31.0%; ID, 48.4%; and II, 20.6%). The D allele was strongly correlated in a codominant fashion with plasma ACE activity (r(s)=0.53, P<0.0001), and accounted for 33% of the total variance in circulating ACE activity. No significant differences among the ACE genotypes were found with respect to age, sex, and conventional risk variables, including a history of hypertension and vascular disease. The average mean IMT and prevalence of increased IMT and focal plaque were not significantly different among genotypes in the overall population or in the subset (n=852) who were conventionally low risk by Framingham coronary heart disease risk score. Logistic regression analysis selected age, systolic blood pressure, pack-years of smoking, LDL cholesterol level, waist/hip ratio, and history of hypertension, but not the D allele, as multivariate predictors of increased IMT and carotid plaque formation. We conclude that, although the ACE I/D polymorphism is strongly related to ACE activity, it is not a risk predictor of carotid wall thickening or focal plaque formation when examined in a large randomly selected community population.