Publications of Karlinger, K.

Genetic and Environmental Effects on the Abdominal Aortic Diameter Development

Background Configuration of the abdominal aorta is related to healthy aging and a variety of disorders. Objectives We aimed to assess heritable and environmental effects on the abdominal aortic diameter. Methods 114 adult (69 monozygotic, 45 same-sex dizygotic) twin pairs (mean age 43.6 ± 16.3 years) underwent abdominal ultrasound with Esaote MyLab 70X ultrasound machine to visualize the abdominal aorta below the level of the origin of the renal arteries and 1-3 cm above the bifurcation. Results Age- and sex-adjusted heritability of the abdominal aortic diameter below the level of the origin of the renal arteries was 40% [95% confidence interval (CI), 14 to 67%] and 55% above the aortic bifurcation (95% CI, 45 to 70%). None of the aortic diameters showed common environmental effects, but unshared environmental effects were responsible for 60% and 45% of the traits, respectively. Conclusions Our analysis documents the moderate heritability and its segment-specific difference of the abdominal aortic diameter. The moderate part of variance was explained by unshared environmental components, emphasizing the importance of lifestyle factors in primary prevention. Further studies in this field may guide future gene-mapping efforts and investigate specific lifestyle factors to prevent abdominal aortic dilatation and its complications.

Environmental Factors Account for Variability of Hepatic Vein Flow: a Doppler assessment in healthy twins

Doppler interrogation studies of the liver blood flow indicate altered hepatic vein waveforms in association with impaired hepatocellular function. However, little is known about the mechanisms responsible for variations of these parameters in the absence of disease. We aimed to investigate the contribution of heritable and environmental factors to the physiological variability of hepatic vein flow in a twin cohort. Two hundred twenty-eight healthy adult Hungarian twins (69 monozygotic, 45 same-sex dizygotic pairs) underwent Doppler sonography of the hepatic vein. Age- and sex-adjusted heritability of the highest velocity (amplitude of S wave) of hepatic vein flow was negligible. Shared environment contributed to 33% (95% CI, 16%-51%), and unshared environment was responsible for the largest portion (67%; 95% CI, 49%-84%) of the variance. Duration of sports activities was significantly (P < 0.05) related to the magnitude of hepatic vein flow, while other risk factors and lifestyle characteristics had no significant influence. The data suggest that genetic factors have little impact on the parameters of hepatic venous blood flow. The variability observed in healthy twins by the Doppler interrogation can be explained by the effect of unshared environmental components primarily related to regular physical activity. These findings underscore the importance of unique environments in physiological variations of hepatic venous blood flow.

Genetic and environmental influence on thyroid gland volume and thickness of thyroid isthmus: a twin study

OBJECTIVES: Decreased thyroid volume has been related to increased prevalence of thyroid cancer. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: One hundred and fourteen Hungarian adult twin pairs (69 monozygotic, 45 dizygotic) with or without known thyroid disorders underwent thyroid ultrasound. Thickness of the thyroid isthmus was measured at the thickest portion of the gland in the midline using electronic calipers at the time of scanning. Volume of the thyroid lobe was computed according to the following formula: thyroid height*width*depth*correction factor (0.63). RESULTS: Age-, sex-, body mass index- and smoking-adjusted heritability of the thickness of thyroid isthmus was 50% (95% confidence interval [CI], 35 to 66%). Neither left nor right thyroid volume showed additive genetic effects, but shared environments were 68% (95% CI, 48 to 80%) and 79% (95% CI, 72 to 87%), respectively. Magnitudes of monozygotic and dizygotic co-twin correlations were not substantially impacted by the correction of covariates of body mass index and smoking. Unshared environmental effects showed a moderate influence on dependent parameters (24-50%). CONCLUSIONS: Our analysis support that familial factors are important for thyroid measures in a general twin population. A larger sample size is needed to show whether this is because of common environmental (e.g. intrauterine effects, regional nutrition habits, iodine supply) or genetic effects.

Different genetic impact in the development of renal length and width: a twin study

Background Ultrasound measurements of renal dimensions are conventionally limited to renal length, shape and cortical thickness. These are regarded as adequate for normal therapeutic decision‐making and volume measurements are reserved for a few clinical trials. However, there is no evidence concerning the degree to which renal length or volume is independently susceptible to heritable and environmental influences. Aim We aimed to determine whether renal length or width (as a surrogate of volume) was more influenced by heritability. Methods A single operator measured renal length and width in 114 adult monozygotic and same‐sex dizygotic Hungarian twin pairs (mean age 43.6 ± 16.3 years), using an Esaote MyLab 70X ultrasound machine with curved array transducer (1–8 MHz, CA431). Results Analysis of within‐pair co‐twin correlations adjusted for age and gender showed that the age‐ and sex‐adjusted heritability of average renal length was 51% (95% confidence interval, 29–72%). Renal width showed negligible genetic influence. Common environmental effects had no influence, and unshared environments were responsible for 49–80% of the variance, mainly renal width. Conclusions This study is the first to demonstrate the moderate heritability and limited environmental influence on renal length, and the contrasting lack of heritability of renal width, which is mainly influenced by unshared environmental components, that is lifestyle habits. Renal width therefore better represents the influence of modifiable environmental factors than renal length. The results suggest that renal width not length should be reported to facilitate early detection and monitoring of renal disease.

Genetic effects on refraction and correlation with hemodynamic variables: a twin study

Spherical equivalent (SE) has not been linked to increased cardiovascular morbidity. Methods: 132 Hungarian twins (age 43.3±16.9 years) underwent refraction measurements (Huvitz MRK-3100 Premium AutoRefractokeratometer) and oscillometry (TensioMed Arteriograph). Results: Heritability analysis indicated major role for genetic components in the presence of right and left SE (82.7%, 95%CI, 62.9 to 93.7%, and 89.3%, 95%CI, 72.8 to 96.6%), while unshared environmental effects accounted for 17% (95%CI, 6.3% to 37%), and 11% (95%CI, 3.4% to 26.7%) of variations adjusted for age and sex. Bilateral SE showed weak age-dependent correlations with augmentation index (AIx), aortic pulse wave velocity (r ranging between 0.218 and 0.389, all p < 0.01), aortic systolic blood pressure and pulse pressure (r between 0.188 and 0.289, p < 0.05). Conclusions: These findings support heritability of spherical equivalent, which does not coexist with altered hemodynamics (e.g. accelerated arterial aging). Accordingly, SE and the investigated hemodynamic parameters seem neither phenotypically nor genetically associated. Keywords: arterial stiffness, augmentation index, genetics, heritability, refraction

Genetic and environmental variance of renal parenchymal thickness: a twin study

Aim: To estimate heritability and environmental effects on renal parenchymal thickness. Methods: In this twin study, renal parenchymal thickness of 98 Hungarian healthy adult twin pairs (68 monozygotic, 30 dizygotic) without kidney disease was measured bilaterally using renal ultrasound with Esaote MyLab 70X ultrasound machine with low-frequency curved transducers (1-8 MHz). Results: In both monozygotic and dizygotic group there were more women (76.5%). Mean right and left renal parenchymal thickness was 1.32 ± 0.33 cm and 1.62 ± 0.31 cm, respectively. Age-and sex-adjusted heritability of renal parenchymal thickness was 0.0% (95% confidence interval, 0.0 to 50.2%), shared and unshared environmental factor was 30.2% (4.1 to 55.9%) and 69.8% (45.8 to 89.5%), respectively. Conclusion: This study shows a negligible role of heritability and an important role of environmental effects in developing renal parenchymal thickness, emphasizing the importance of lifestyle for primary prevention.

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 and environmental factors on the relation of lung function and arterial stiffness

Background An association between reduced lung function and increased cardiovascular risk has been reported, but the underlying mechanisms are unknown. The aim of this study was to assess the heritability of lung function and to estimate its genetic association with arterial stiffness. Methods 150 monozygotic and 42 dizygotic healthy Hungarian and American Caucasian twin pairs (age 43 ± 17 years) underwent spirometry (forced vital capacity/FVC/, forced expiratory volume in 1 s/FEV1/; MIR Minispir, USA); and their brachial and central augmentation indices (AIx), and aortic pulse wave velocity (PWV) were measured by oscillometric Arteriograph (TensioMed Ltd, Budapest, Hungary). Phenotypic correlations and bivariate Cholesky decomposition models were applied. Results Age-, sex-, country- and smoking-adjusted heritability of FEV1, percent predicted FEV1, FVC and percent predicted FVC were 73% (95% confidence interval /CI/: 45–85%), 28% (95% CI: 0–67%), 68% (95% CI: 20–81%) and 45% (95% CI: 0–66%), respectively. Measured and percent predicted FVC and FEV1 values showed no significant phenotypic correlations with AIx or aortic PWV, except for phenotypic twin correlations between measured FEV1, FVC with brachial or aortic augmentation indices which ranged between −0.12 and −0.17. No genetic covariance between lung function and arterial stiffness was found. Conclusions Lung function is heritable and the measured FVC and FEV are phenotypically, but not genetically, associated with augmentation index, a measure of wave reflection. This relationship may in turn reveal further associations leading to a better mechanistic understanding of vascular changes in various airway diseases.

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.