Plasma lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)], a low density lipoprotein particle with an attached apolipoprotein(a) [apo(a)], varies widely in concentration between individuals. These concentration differences are heritable and inversely related to the number of kringle 4 repeats in the apo(a) gene. To define the genetic determinants of plasma Lp(a) levels, plasma Lp(a) concentrations and apo(a) genotypes were examined in 48 nuclear Caucasian families. Apo(a) genotypes were determined using a newly developed pulsed-field gel electrophoresis method which distinguished 19 different genotypes at the apo(a) locus. The apo(a) gene itself was found to account for virtually all the genetic variability in plasma Lp(a) levels. This conclusion was reached by analyzing plasma Lp(a) levels in siblings who shared zero, one, or two apo(a) genes that were identical by descent (ibd). Siblings with both apo(a) alleles ibd (n = 72) have strikingly similar plasma Lp(a) levels (r = 0.95), whereas those who shared no apo(a) alleles (n = 52), had dissimilar concentrations (r = -0.23). The apo(a) gene was estimated to be responsible for 91% of the variance of plasma Lp(a) concentration. The number of kringle 4 repeats in the apo(a) gene accounted for 69% of the variation, and yet to be defined cis-acting sequences at the apo(a) locus accounted for the remaining 22% of the inter-individual variation in plasma Lp(a) levels. During the course of these studies we observed the de novo generation of a new apo(a) allele, an event that occurred once in 376 meioses.
E Boerwinkle, C C Leffert, J Lin, C Lackner, G Chiesa, H H Hobbs