Background: Human variation in susceptibility to hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension is well recognized. High-altitude residents who do not develop pulmonary hypertension may host protective gene mutations.
Methods and results: Exome sequencing was conducted on 24 unrelated Kyrgyz highlanders living 2400 to 3800 m above sea level, 12 (10 men; mean age, 54 years) with an elevated mean pulmonary artery pressure (mean±SD, 38.7±2.7 mm Hg) and 12 (11 men; mean age, 52 years) with a normal mean pulmonary artery pressure (19.2±0.6 mm Hg) to identify candidate genes that may influence the pulmonary vascular response to hypoxia. A total of 140 789 exomic variants were identified and 26 116 (18.5%) were classified as novel or rare. Thirty-three novel or rare potential pathogenic variants (frameshift, essential splice-site, and nonsynonymous) were found exclusively in either ≥3 subjects with high-altitude pulmonary hypertension or ≥3 highlanders with a normal mean pulmonary artery pressure. A novel missense mutation in GUCY1A3 in 3 subjects with a normal mean pulmonary artery pressure encodes an α1-A680T soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC) variant. Expression of the α1-A680T sGC variant in reporter cells resulted in higher cyclic guanosine monophosphate production compared with the wild-type enzyme and the purified α1-A680T sGC exhibited enhanced sensitivity to nitric oxide in vitro.
Conclusions: The α1-A680T sGC variant may contribute to protection against high-altitude pulmonary hypertension and supports sGC as a pharmacological target for reducing pulmonary artery pressure in humans at altitude.
Keywords: cyclic nucleotide; exome; hypoxia; pulmonary hypertension.
© 2014 American Heart Association, Inc.