Background: Serum creatine kinase (CK) levels are reported to be around 70% higher in healthy black people, as compared to white people (median value 88 IU/L in white vs 149 IU/L in black people). As serum CK in healthy people is thought to occur from a proportional leak from normal tissues, we hypothesized that the black population subgroup has a generalized higher CK activity in tissues.
Methodology/principal findings: We compared CK activity spectrophotometrically in tissues with high and fluctuating energy demands including cerebrum, cerebellum, heart, renal artery, and skeletal muscle, obtained post-mortem in black and white men. Based on serum values, we conservatively estimated to find a 50% greater CK activity in black people compared with white people, and calculated a need for 10 subjects of one gender in each group to detect this difference. We used mixed linear regression models to assess the possible influence of ethnicity on CK activity in different tissues, with ethnicity as a fixed categorical subject factor, and CK of different tissues clustered within one person as the repeated effect response variable. We collected post-mortem tissue samples from 17 white and 10 black males, mean age 62 y (SE 4). Mean tissue CK activity was 76% higher in tissues from black people (estimated marginal means 107.2 [95% CI, 76.7 to 137.7] mU/mg protein in white, versus 188.6 [148.8 to 228.4] in black people, p = 0.002).
Conclusion: We found evidence that black people have higher CK activity in all tissues with high and fluctuating energy demands studied. This finding may help explain the higher serum CK levels found in this population subgroup. Furthermore, our data imply that there are differences in CK-dependent ATP buffer capacity in tissue between the black and the white population subgroup, which may become apparent with high energy demands.