Hypertension that occurs before the age of 60 years is strongly aggregated in families, mostly due to genetic factors with weaker contributions from a shared family environment. Hypertension is probably a heterogeneous collection of overlapping subsets of pathophysiological mechanisms, such as dyslipidemia, obesity, hyperinsulinemia and cation metabolism. Highly heritable traits such as sodium-lithium countertransport, urinary kallikrein excretion and a body fat pattern index show evidence of major gene segregation in families with hypertension. They are thought to be intermediate phenotypes in the chain of pathophysiological events leading from specific genes to the distant phenotype of hypertension. They provide evidence of measurable contribution from single gene traits to the susceptibility to hypertension. Genetic linkage studies have suggested that other specific loci (e.g. histocompatibility leukocyte antigen, blood group MN and the haptoglobin protein) contribute to the susceptibility to hypertension. DNA sequencing has shown a point mutation for lipoprotein lipase that conveys susceptibility to lipid abnormalities, and possibly also hypertension, as seen in families with dyslipidemic hypertension. Further application of these approaches, especially in families that include multiple siblings with hypertension, shows promise of a true understanding of how the combined effects of a few specific genes, the polygenic background and selected environmental factors can lead to essential hypertension. This understanding should foster better tailored and more effective approaches to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of hypertension.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine