Nitric oxide (NO) synthesized by the vascular endothelium regulates mammalian blood vessels and other systems in humans. Recently, an endothelial nitric oxide synthase (ecNOS) gene polymorphism, the 27-bp repeat in intron 4 (ecNOS4), was reported to be related to the pathogenesis of coronary heart disease and terminal renal failure. We analyzed this polymorphism in a group of 413 healthy subjects, and measured their plasma nitrite and nitrate (NOx) levels. The frequency of the b allele was 89.8% , and the frequency of the a allele was 10.2%. The frequency of ecNOS4 b/b, ecNOS4 b/a, and ecNOS4 a/a in the healthy subjects in this study was 0.814 (n=336), 0.169 (n=70) and 0.017 (n=7), respectively. Using this polymorphism as a DNA marker, we found a strong association between the alleles of the ecNOS gene polymorphism and the plasma NOx levels. The basal NO metabolite levels were 28.8 micromol/L in subjects with ecNOS4 a/a, 31.4 micromol/L in those with ecNOS4 b/a, and 35.5 micromol/L in those with ecNOS4 b/b. The mean plasma NOx level of the subjects who were homozygous for the a allele was nearly 20% lower than in the subjects with the b allele. The plasma NOx level of the subjects with the a allele was 31.2+/-2.00 micromol/L, and significantly lower than the 35.5+/-0.93 micromol/L in those without the a allele (P <0.05). The results of this study indicate that the ecNOS4 gene locus may be responsible for variations in the genetic control of plasma NOx and that analysis of ecNOS4 gene polymorphism may be a useful tool for studying the relation between NO and diseases.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.