Blood pressure and cerebral white matter share common genetic factors in Mexican Americans

Peter Kochunov, David C. Glahn, Jack Lancaster, Anderson Winkler, Kathrin Karlsgodt, Rene L. Olvera, Joanne E Curran, Melanie A Carless, Thomas D. Dyer, Laura A Almasy, Ravindranath Duggirala, Peter T. Fox, John C Blangero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Elevated arterial pulse pressure and blood pressure (BP) can lead to atrophy of cerebral white matter (WM), potentially attributable to shared genetic factors. We calculated the magnitude of shared genetic variance between BP and fractional anisotropy of water diffusion, a sensitive measurement of WM integrity in a well-characterized population of Mexican Americans. The patterns of whole-brain and regional genetic overlap between BP and fractional anisotropy were interpreted in the context the pulse-wave encephalopathy theory. We also tested whether regional pattern in genetic pleiotropy is modulated by the phylogeny of WM development. BP and high-resolution (1.7×1.7×3 mm; 55 directions) diffusion tensor imaging data were analyzed for 332 (202 females; mean age 47.9±13.3 years) members of the San Antonio Family Heart Study. Bivariate genetic correlation analysis was used to calculate the genetic overlap between several BP measurements (pulse pressure, systolic BP, and diastolic BP) and fractional anisotropy (whole-brain and regional values). Intersubject variance in pulse pressure and systolic BP exhibited a significant genetic overlap with variance in whole-brain fractional anisotropy values, sharing 36% and 22% of genetic variance, respectively. Regionally, shared genetic variance was significantly influenced by rates of WM development (r=-0.75; P=0.01). The pattern of genetic overlap between BP and WM integrity was generally in agreement with the pulse-wave encephalopathy theory. Our study provides evidence that a set of pleiotropically acting genetic factors jointly influence phenotypic variation in BP and WM integrity. The magnitude of this overlap appears to be influenced by phylogeny of WM development, suggesting a possible role for genotype-by-age interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)330-335
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • DTI
  • blood pressure
  • diffusion tensor imaging
  • fractional anisotropy
  • genetics
  • population science
  • pulse pressure
  • white matter integrity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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