Background: Genetic background has a major influence on the manifestation of multifactorial diseases such as hypertension in which severe complications may be caused through an interaction with additional factors, which may be genetically determined. We have previously described a genetic model of malignant hypertension (MH) in rats carrying the mouse Ren2 gene (TGRmRen2-27), in which the phenotype is dependent on the genetic background.
Methods: Using a single homozygous TGRmRen2-27 male as transgene donor, we produced two F1 populations with (a) 100% penetrance of MH in progeny heterozygous for the Fischer F344 genetic background and (b) 58.5% penetrance in progeny heterozygous for the Lewis genetic background. To identify the modifier loci affecting the phenotype, a cohort of 252 males was produced by breeding the same single male with Fischer-Lewis F1 females. The progeny were phenotyped for clinical and pathological features of MH.
Results: Genome-wide screening and quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis identified two loci, on chromosome 10 (LOD 4.4) and on chromosome 17 (LOD 3.9) close to the Ace and At1 genes, respectively, which contribute to the lethal MH phenotype. Their influence on mortality was consistent with a multiplicative effect of the two loci. In addition, we found higher plasma angiotensin-converting enzyme activity in progeny receiving the Fischer allele than in progeny receiving the Lewis allele (123.5 +/- 9.5 vs. 91.8 +/- 4.9 U/liter, P < 0.01), suggesting the association of angiotensin-converting enzyme and MH.
Conclusions: Our study demonstrates the application of a transgene as a "major gene" to facilitate the identification of modifier loci, which can affect the phenotype of MH, and reveals Ace and At1 as candidate genes involved in the manifestation of the MH phenotype.