BACKGROUND: Despite strong evidence for a genetic component to variation in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (HDL-C), specific polymorphisms associated with normal variation in HDL-C have not been identified. It is known, however, that HDL-C levels are influenced in complex ways by factors related to age and sex. In this paper, we examined the evidence for age- and sex-specific linkage of HDL-C in a longitudinal sample of participants from the Framingham Heart Study. To determine if aging could influence our ability to detect linkage, we explored the evidence for linkage of HDL-C at three time points, t1, t2, and t3, spaced approximately 8 years apart and corresponding respectively to visits 11, 15, and 20 for the original cohort and 1, 2, and 4 for the offspring and spouses. Additionally, to examine the effects of sex on linkage at each time point, we estimated the heritability and genetic correlation of HDL-C, performed linkage analysis of HDL-C, tested for genotype-by-sex interaction at a QTL, and performed linkage analysis of HDL-C in males and females separately. RESULTS AND CONCLUSION: In women, we found evidence for a QTL on chromosome 2q influencing HDL-C variation. Although the QTL could be detected in the combined sample of males and females at the first time point, the linkage was not significant at subsequent time points.
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