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APO E ABSTRACTS: Age-dependent association of apolipoprotein E genotype with coronary and aortic atherosclerosis in middle-aged men: an autopsy study.

Ilveskoski E, Perola M, Lehtimaki T, Laippala P, Savolainen V, Pajarinen J, Penttila A, Lalu KH, Mannikko A, Liesto KK, Koivula T, Karhunen PJ Medical School, University of Tampere, Tampere University Hospital, Finland. [Circulation 1999 Aug 10;100(6):608-13]

BACKGROUND: Apolipoprotein E (apoE) polymorphism is one of the genetic determinants of serum cholesterol values. The apoE epsilon4 allele has been associated with advanced coronary heart disease (CHD) diagnosed by angiography, but the role of the apoE genotype in atherosclerosis has not been confirmed at vessel-wall level, nor is any age-dependent effect of the apoE genotype on the development of CHD known.

METHODS AND RESULTS: The right and left anterior descending coronary arteries (RCA and LAD) and the aorta from 700 male autopsy cases (Helsinki Sudden Death Study) in 1981-1982 and 1991-1992 (average age 53 years, range 33 to 70 years) were stained for fat, and all areas covered with fatty streaks, fibrotic plaques, and complicated lesions were measured. In the RCA and LAD, the apoE genotype was significantly associated with the area of total atherosclerotic lesions in men <53 years old but not with that in older men (P=0.0085 and P=0.041, respectively, for age-by-genotype interaction). Men <53 years old with the epsilon4/3 genotype showed 61% larger total atherosclerotic lesion area in the RCA (P=0.0027) and 26% larger area in the LAD (P=0.12) than did men with the epsilon3/3. The apoE epsilon4/3 was also associated with atherosclerotic lesions in the abdominal (P=0.014) and thoracic (P=0.12) aorta, but this effect, unlike that of the coronary arteries, was not age-related.

CONCLUSIONS: In men, the apoE epsilon4 allele is a significant genetic risk factor for coronary atherosclerosis in early middle age. This suggests that at older age, other known risk factors of CHD play a more important role in the atherosclerotic process than apoE polymorphisms.

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