Homozygous Tangier disease and cardiovascular disease

Atherosclerosis. 1994 May;107(1):85-98. doi: 10.1016/0021-9150(94)90144-9.


Decreased levels of plasma high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol have been associated with premature cardiovascular disease (CVD). Tangier disease is an autosomal co-dominant disorder in which homozygotes have a marked deficiency of HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein (apo) A-I levels (both < 10 mg/dl), decreased low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels (about 40% of normal), and mild hypertriglyceridemia. Homozygotes develop cholesterol ester deposition in tonsils (orange tonsils), liver, spleen, gastrointestinal tract, lymph nodes, bone marrow, and Schwann cells. Our purpose was to assess the prevalence of CVD in Tangier disease. We reviewed published clinical information on 51 cases of homozygous Tangier disease, report 3 new cases and provide autopsy information on 3 cases. Mean (+/- S.D.) lipid values of all cases were as follows: total cholesterol 68 +/- 30 mg/dl (32% of normal), triglycerides 201 +/- 118 mg/dl (162% of normal), HDL cholesterol 3 +/- 3 mg/dl (6% of normal) and LDL cholesterol 50 +/- 38 mg/dl (37% of normal). The most common clinical finding in these subjects (n = 54) was peripheral neuropathy which was observed in 54% of cases versus < 1% of control subjects (n = 3130). CVD was observed in 20% of Tangier patients versus 5% of controls (P < 0.05), and in those that were between 35 and 65 years of age, 44% (11 of 25) had evidence of CVD (either angina, myocardial infarction or stroke) versus 6.5% in 1533 male controls and 3.2% in 1597 female controls in this age group (P < 0.01). In 9 patients who died, 2 died prior to age 20 of probable infectious diseases, 3 of documented coronary heart disease at ages 48, 64, and 72, 2 of stroke at ages 56 and 69, one of valvular heart disease, and 1 of cancer. In three autopsy cases, significant diffuse atherosclerosis was observed in one at age 64, moderate atherosclerosis and cerebral infarction in another at age 56, but no atherosclerosis was noted in the third case who died of lymphoma at age 62. In one patient with established coronary heart disease, none of the lipid lowering agents used (niacin, gemfibrozil, estrogen or lovastatin) raised HDL cholesterol levels above 5 mg/dl. However, these agents did have significant effects on lowering triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels. Our data indicate that there may be heterogeneity in these patients with regard to CVD risk, that peripheral neuropathy is a major problem in many patients, and that CVD is a significant clinical problem in middle aged and elderly Tangier homozygotes.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy
  • Female
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / complications
  • Tangier Disease / blood
  • Tangier Disease / complications*
  • Tangier Disease / genetics
  • Tangier Disease / therapy


  • Lipoproteins