Background: Intimal thickening is an adaptive process of the arterial wall, presumably related to atherogenesis. Sex and interethnic differences in intimal thickening, as demonstrated histologically on autoptic material, would indicate a strong genetic control on this process. An insertion/deletion (ID) polymorphism in the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) gene has been shown to be an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, especially in subjects otherwise at low risk for coronary heart disease. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the relationship between intimal plus medial thickness (IMT) and ACE-I/D genotype.
Methods: 132 healthy male subjects from Southern Italy were enrolled. IMT has been evaluated from high resolution B-mode echo-Doppler images. Blood lipids and glucose were measured using standard methods. Cigarette consumption was recorded by questionnaire. ACE genotypes were analysed by polymerase chain reaction.
Results: Blood lipids, blood pressure and percentage of smokers were similar in the three groups. IMT was greatest in DD subjects, lowest in II subjects and intermediate in heterozygotes. The association between the presence of the D allele and IMT values was statistically significant. Significance was maintained after the elimination of subjects with carotid atherosclerotic plaques.
Conclusions: The present data suggest that the ACE gene seems to be a candidate gene that strongly influences the IMT of the arterial wall and might therefore be involved in the individual's predisposition to the development of atherosclerosis.