Retinal vascular caliber provides information about the structure and health of the microvascular system and is associated with cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. Compared to European Americans, African Americans tend to have wider retinal arteriolar and venular caliber, even after controlling for cardiovascular risk factors. This has suggested the hypothesis that differences in genetic background may contribute to racial/ethnic differences in retinal vascular caliber. Using 1,365 ancestry-informative SNPs, we estimated the percentage of African ancestry (PAA) and conducted genome-wide admixture mapping scans in 1,737 African Americans from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. Central retinal artery equivalent (CRAE) and central retinal vein equivalent (CRVE) representing summary measures of retinal arteriolar and venular caliber, respectively, were measured from retinal photographs. PAA was significantly correlated with CRVE (r = 0.071, P = 0.003), but not CRAE (r = 0.032, P = 0.182). Using admixture mapping, we did not detect significant admixture association with either CRAE (genome-wide score =20.73) or CRVE (genome-wide score =20.69). An a priori subgroup analysis among hypertensive individuals detected a genome-wide significant association of CRVE with greater African ancestry at chromosome 6p21.1 (genome-wide score = 2.31, locus-specific LOD = 5.47). Each additional copy of an African ancestral allele at the 6p21.1 peak was associated with an average increase in CRVE of 6.14 mm in the hypertensives, but had no significant effects in the non-hypertensives (P for heterogeneity <0.001). Further mapping in the 6p21.1 region may uncover novel genetic variants affecting retinal vascular caliber and further insights into the interaction between genetic effects of the microvascular system and hypertension.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research