Publications of Osztovits, J.

Genetic impact dominates over environmental effects in development of carotid artery stiffness: a twin study

Arterial stiffness is an independent predictor of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and all-cause mortality. Quantifying the genetic influence on the stiff arterial phenotype allows us to better predict the development of arterial stiffness. In this study, we aimed to determine the heritability of carotid artery stiffness in healthy twins. We studied 98 twin pairs of both sexes. We determined carotid artery stiffness locally using echo tracking and applanation tonometry. We estimated the heritability of stiffness parameters using structural equation modeling. The carotid distensibility coefficient showed the highest heritability (64%, 95% confidence interval 45–77%). The incremental elastic modulus, compliance and stiffness index β also showed substantial heritability (62%, 61% and 58%, respectively). The remaining 36–42% phenotypic variance was attributed to unshared environmental effects. Genetic influence appears to dominate over environmental factors in the development of carotid artery stiffness. Environmental factors may have an important role in favorably influencing the genetic predisposition for accelerated arterial stiffening.

Association of body mass index with arterial stiffness and blood pressure components: a twin study

Rationale Obesity, blood pressure and arterial stiffness are heritable traits interconnected to each other but their possible common genetic and environmental etiologies are unknown. Methods We studied 228 monozygotic and 150 dizygotic twin pairs aged 18–82 years from Italy, Hungary and the United States, of which 45 monozygotic and 38 dizygotic pairs were discordant for body mass index (BMI; intrapair difference (Δ) in BMI ≥ 3 kg/m2). Blood pressure components and arterial stiffness were measured by TensioMed Arteriograph. Results Hypertension was more prevalent among obese than non-obese individuals (55% vs. 29%, p < 0.001). Age-, sex- and country-adjusted heritability estimates were high for hemodynamic measures (45%–58%) and BMI (78%). According to bivariate Cholesky decomposition, phenotypic correlations between BMI and blood pressure components (r = −0.15 to 0.24, p < 0.05) were largely explained by additive genetic factors (65%–77%) with the remaining explained by the unique environment. When controlling for genetic factors within all monozygotic pairs, ΔBMI was significantly correlated with Δbrachial systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP), Δmean arterial pressure, and Δaortic SBP (r = 0.15–0.17, p < 0.05). For the same measures, heavier co-twins of BMI-discordant monozygotic pairs had significantly higher values than their leaner counterparts (p < 0.05). Conclusion Blood pressure components are moderately correlated with BMI, largely because of shared genetic factors. However, for the association of BMI with brachial SBP and DBP, aortic SBP and mean arterial pressure, acquired, modifiable factors were also found to be important.

Genetic influence on the relation between exhaled nitric oxide and pulse wave reflection

Nitric oxide has an important role in the development of the structure and function of the airways and vessel walls. Fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FENO) is inversely related to the markers and risk factors of atherosclerosis. We aimed to estimate the relative contribution of genes and shared and non-shared environmental influences to variations and covariation of FENO levels and the marker of elasticity function of arteries. Adult Caucasian twin pairs (n = 117) were recruited in Hungary, Italy and in the United States (83 monozygotic and 34 dizygotic pairs; age: 48 ± 16 SD years). FENO was measured by an electrochemical sensor-based device. Pulse wave reflection (aortic augmentation index, Aixao) was determined by an oscillometric method (Arteriograph). A bivariate Cholesky decomposition model was applied to investigate whether the heritabilities of FENO and Aixao were linked. Genetic effects accounted for 58% (95% confidence interval (CI): 42%, 71%) of the variation in FENO with the remaining 42% (95%CI: 29%, 58%) due to non-shared environmental influences. A modest negative correlation was observed between FENO and Aixao (r = -0.17; 95%CI:-0.32,-0.02). FENO showed a significant negative genetic correlation with Aixao (rg = -0.25; 95%CI:-0.46,-0.02). Thus in humans, variations in FENO are explained both by genetic and non-shared environmental effects. Covariance between FENO and Aixao is explained entirely by shared genetic factors. This is consistent with an overlap among the sets of genes involved in the expression of these phenotypes and provides a basis for further genetic studies on cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Evidence for a strong genetic influence on carotid plaque characteristics: an international twin study

Background and Purpose— Few family studies reported moderate genetic impact on the presence and scores of carotid plaques. However, the heritability of carotid plaque characteristics remains still unclear. Twin studies more reliably estimate the relative contribution of genes to these traits in contrast to family study design. Methods— One hundred ninety-two monozygotic and 83 dizygotic adult twin pairs (age 49±15 years) from Italy, Hungary, and the United States underwent B-mode and color Doppler ultrasound of bilateral common, internal, and external carotid arteries. Results— Age-, sex-, and country-adjusted heritability was 78% for the presence of carotid plaque (95% CI, 55%–90%), 74% for plaque echogenicity (hypoechoic, hyperechoic, or mixed; 95% CI, 38%–87%), 69% for plaque size (area in mm2 in longitudinal plane; < or >50 percentile; 95% CI, 16%–86%), 74% for plaque sidedness (unilateral or bilateral; 95% CI, 25%–90%), 74% for plaque numerosity (95% CI, 26%–86%), 68% (95% CI, 40%–84%), and 66% (95% CI, 32%–90%) for the presence of plaque in carotid bulbs and proximal internal carotid arteries. No role of shared environmental factors was found. Unique environmental factors were responsible for the remaining variance (22%–34%). Controlling for relevant covariates did not change the results significantly. Conclusions— The heritability of ultrasound characteristics of carotid plaque is high. Unshared environmental effects account for a modest portion of the variance. Our findings should stimulate the search for genes responsible for these traits.

Heritability of central blood pressure and arterial stiffness: a twin study

OBJECTIVE: Central blood pressure and aortic stiffness have been consistently reported as strong cardiovascular risk factors. Twin studies by comparing identical with nonidentical twins produce information on the relative contribution of genes and environment. METHODS: One hundred and fifty-four monozygotic (MZ) and 42 dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs (age 43 ± 17 years) from Hungary and the United States underwent brachial and central augmentation index (AIx), brachial and central pressure, and aortic pulse wave velocity (PWV) measurements with the invasively validated Arteriograph device. Bivariate Cholesky decomposition models were applied. RESULTS: Age-adjusted, sex-adjusted and country-adjusted heritability was 60.0% for central SBP [95% confidence interval (CI), 44.8-69.6%], 50.1% for aortic PWV (95%CI, 26.0-66.8%), 48.7% for aortic AIx (95%CI, 1.7-74.0%), 46.8% for brachial AIx (95%CI, 1.1-73.8%), 46.7% for central pulse pressure (PP) (95%CI, 12.4-61.4%), and 30.0% for brachial PP (95%CI, 0.0-53.4%). Central SBP and PP had strong bivariate correlations with brachial (r = 0.461 and 0.425) and central AIx (r = 0.457 and 0.419), as well as with aortic PWV (r = 0.341 and 0.292, all P < 0.001). Brachial PP had a weak correlation with brachial AIx (r = -0.118, P < 0.05), central AIx (r = -0.122, P < 0.05), and none with aortic PWV (r = 0.08, P = n.s.). Genetic factors explained a moderate phenotypic correlation between central PP, SBP, brachial SBP and aortic PWV. CONCLUSIONS: Central systolic and PPs, brachial PP, AIx, aortic PWV are moderately heritable. A moderate genetic covariance among aortic PWV and central PP, central SBP and brachial SBP was found.

Heritability of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and association with abnormal vascular parameters: A twin study

Background Non‐alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has been linked to increased cardiovascular morbidity. However, genetic factors have an unclear role in this condition. Aims To analyse heritability of NAFLD and its association with abnormal vascular parameters in a large twin cohort. Methods Anthropometric and lipid metabolic parameters were obtained from 208 adult Hungarian twins (63 monozygotic and 41 dizygotic pairs; 58 men and 150 women; age 43.7 ± 16.7 years). B‐mode ultrasonography was performed to detect steatosis and categorize severity. Brachial and aortic augmentation indices and aortic pulse wave velocity were assessed using oscillometry (TensioMed Arteriograph). Carotid intima media thickness (IMT) was measured using ultrasonography on the proximal common, distal common and internal carotid arteries. Results NAFLD was identified in 47 subjects (22.6%), of which 44 (93.6%) had mild and 3 (6.4%) had moderate steatosis. These subjects were older (age: 50.9 ± 14.3 vs. 41.5 ± 16.7 years, P < 0.001) and had a higher body mass index (BMI; 30.1 ± 5.2 vs. 24.6 ± 4.1 km/m2, P < 0.001) than non‐NAFLD twins. Based on 91 same‐sex twin pairs, heritability analysis indicated no discernible role for genetic components in the presence of NAFLD (95% confidence interval, 0.0–36.0%), while shared and unshared environmental effects accounted for 74.2% and 25.8% of variations adjusted for age and BMI. Augmentation indices and carotid IMT in twins with NAFLD were increased at most examined locations (P < 0.05–P < 0.001). Conclusion These findings do not support heritability of NAFLD, although it coexists with vascular parameters linked to increased cardiovascular risk, underscoring the importance and value of prevention in this very common disorder.

Chronic hepatitis C virus infection associated with autonomic dysfunction

Background: Impaired autonomic function has been described in patients with chronic liver diseases from different aetiologies, and has proven to be a poor prognostic indicator. To date, it is not known how chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection affects the autonomic nervous system. Aims: In the present study, we compared cardiovagal autonomic function in patients with chronic HCV infection and healthy controls and examined the relation between autonomic function and serum levels of aminotransferases, HCV RNA, cryoglobulins, albumin and glucose. Methods: Autonomic function was assessed in 45 treatment-naïve patients with chronic HCV infection and in 40 healthy controls by determining spontaneous baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) and heart rate variability (HRV) indices. The R–R interval was determined by electrocardiogram recording; continuous radial artery pressure was monitored simultaneously by applanation tonometry. Laboratory analyses and quantitative polymerase chain reaction for serum HCV RNA level were performed by standard procedures. Results: BRS and HRV time and frequency domain indices were lower in patients with HCV infection compared with healthy controls [7.1±3.4 vs. 11.5±6.5 ms/mmHg for BRS, 168.5±160.9 vs. 370.7±349.4 ms<sup>2</sup> for low-frequency HRV (mean±SD); P<0.01]. Multivariate analysis showed that autonomic dysfunction in HCV-infected patients correlated with elevated alanine aminotransferase levels, but was not associated with serum HCV RNA levels and cryoglobulins. Conclusion: Our results suggest that impaired autonomic function is caused by chronic HCV infection. Further studies are needed, however, to identify the underlying mechanisms.