A variant of the endothelial nitric oxide synthase gene (NOS3) associated with AMS susceptibility is less common in the Quechua, a high altitude Native population

High Alt Med Biol. 2010 Spring;11(1):27-30. doi: 10.1089/ham.2009.1054.


Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) is a vascular enzyme that produces nitric oxide, a transient signaling molecule that by vasodilatation regulates blood flow and pressure. Nitric oxide is believed to play roles in both short-term acclimatization and long-term evolutionary adaptation to environmental hypoxia. Several laboratories, including ours, have shown that variants in NOS3 (the gene encoding eNOS) are overrepresented in individuals with altitude-related illnesses such as high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and acute mountain sickness (AMS), suggesting that NOS3 genotypes contribute to altitude tolerance. To further test our hypothesis that the G allele at the G894T polymorphism in NOS3 (dbSNP number: rs1799983; protein polymorphism Glu298Asp) is beneficial in hypoxic environments, we compared frequencies of this allele in an altitude-adapted Amerindian population, Quechua of the Andean altiplano, with those in a lowland Amerindian population, Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula. While common in both populations, the G allele was significantly more frequent in the highlanders. Taken together, our data suggest that this variant in NOS3, which has been previously associated with higher levels of nitric oxide, contributes to both acclimatization and adaptation to altitude.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization
  • Altitude
  • Altitude Sickness / genetics*
  • Ethnicity / genetics*
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Mexico
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III / genetics*
  • Peru
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Population Groups


  • NOS3 protein, human
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III