AIMS - Growth factors play an important role in regulating vascular function. Data are limited regarding clinical and genetic correlates of endothelial growth factors and their associations with vascular function.
METHODS AND RESULTS - We evaluated clinical and genetic correlates of circulating vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF), its soluble receptor sFlt-1, and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) in 3754 Framingham Study participants. We also related the growth factors to measures of brachial artery function. Serum VEGF and HGF were higher and sFLt-1 was lower in women and smokers. VEGF and HGF were associated positively with body mass index; both displayed strong positive associations with the metabolic syndrome (P < 0.001) and its components. The heritabilities of VEGF, sFlt-1, and HGF were 78, 13, and 38%, respectively. VEGF and HGF were related positively to baseline brachial diameter (P < 0.01) and to baseline mean flow velocity (P < 0.001) in age- and sex-adjusted models, but the multivariable models failed to reach significance. None of the growth factors were related to flow-mediated dilation.
CONCLUSION - In our community-based sample, circulating VEGF and HGF demonstrated high heritabilities and a sexual dimorphism. Increased angiogenesis and greater endothelial cell turnover may underlie associations of these growth factors with risk factors including smoking.