BACKGROUND - The alpha2C-adrenergic receptor plays an important role in the regulation of the sympathetic nervous system and, therefore, blood pressure and heart rate. A deletion polymorphism in its gene (ADRA2C del322-325), ten times more common in black than white Americans, has been associated with a loss of function in vitro and, under controlled study conditions, raised blood pressure and catecholamine secretion. We therefore examined the hypothesis that the ADRA2C deletion variant would alter sympathetic activity and contribute to ethnic differences in blood pressure.
METHODS - We measured resting plasma norepinephrine and epinephrine concentrations, blood pressure and heart rate in 224 healthy subjects (127 whites), and determined their ADRA2C del322-325 genotype. Additionally, we analyzed heart rate variability (HRV) in a subgroup of 50 black subjects.
RESULTS - Systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) were higher in blacks than whites [difference (95% confidence interval), 4.4 (1.5-7.4) mmHg, P = 0.003; and 2.7 (0.7-4.6) mmHg, P = 0.01, respectively]. Norepinephrine concentrations did not differ among subjects with 0, 1 and 2 copies of the deletion variant [median (interquartile range), 185.0 (147.5-269.8), 200.0 (154.9-257.0) and 173.8 (158.5-235.8) pg/ml, respectively; P = 0.54]. Similarly, none of the HRV parameters differed among the genotype groups. In multiple linear regression analyses adjusting for multiple covariates, the deletion genotype was not associated with SBP or DBP. In contrast, black ethnicity was associated with higher SBP (P = 0.001) and DBP (P = 0.005).
CONCLUSION - The ADRA2C deletion polymorphism had no effect on markers of resting sympathetic activity and cardiovascular measures, and did not account for ethnic differences in blood pressure.