A rather common leucine7-to-proline7 (Leu7Pro) polymorphism in the preproneuropeptide Y (prepro-NPY) gene signal peptide may be important in blood pressure regulation, cholesterol metabolism and the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis in humans. We examined the associations of the Leu7Pro polymorphism with carotid atherosclerotic progression, blood pressure and serum lipids in a population-based sample of 966 men aged 42-60 years in Finland. The Pro7 substitution (carrier frequency 12.2%) was associated with accelerated four-year increase in the mean (P=0.01) and maximal (P=0.007) common carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) and with slightly increased systolic (P=0.03) and diastolic (P=0.02) blood pressures, adjusted for other major risk factors. Men with Pro7 substitution had 30.6% (95% CI 6.9-54.0%) greater increase in the mean IMT and 20.0% (95% CI 5.3-34.4%) greater increase in the maximal IMT than men with Leu7/Leu7 genotype. The Pro7 substitution was also related to increased serum total cholesterol (P=0.01) and LDL cholesterol (P=0.02) in obese (body mass index (BMI)>30 kg/m(2)) men. This study provides important evidence suggesting that the Pro7 substitution in the prepro-NPY is an important risk factor for accelerated atherosclerotic progression, increased blood pressure and increased serum cholesterol in humans.