Methylation is an important pathway in the biotransformation of many drugs, neurotransmitters, and xenobiotic compounds. Histamine N‐methyltransferase (HNMT) catalyzes the Nτ‐methylation of histamine and structurally related compounds. Measurement of HNMT activity in the RBC makes it possible to access variation in the enzyme activity that may reflect differences in less accessible tissues such as brain. Previously reported high family correlations for RBC HNMT activity suggested that genetic inheritance plays a major role in the regulation of variation in this enzyme. In the present study we completed complex segregation analyses of RBC HNMT activity of 241 individuals in 51 nuclear families that were randomly ascertained through children in the Rochester, Minnesota public school system in order to characterize the mode of inheritance of this important enzyme. We found evidence for major gene influence on the regulation of RBC HNMT activity. Both transformed and untransformed data support the presence of Mendelian major gene segregation, but the gene frequency differences do not indicate a direct correspondence between genotypes inferred from the two sets of analyses. Analyses of the skewed untransformed data indicated the presence of a relatively rare (Q = 0.121) additive major gene for high activity, with the three overlapping genotype distributions representing 77, 21, and 2 % of individuals. Analyses of the normalized transformed data indicated the presence of a common (Q = 0.71) additive major gene for high activity, with the three overlapping genotype distributions accounting for 9, 41, and 50 % of individuals. The analyses of transformed data give the best fit as well as the most parsimonious Mendelian major gene model. However, we cannot rule out the possibility of multiple alleles, and analyses of untransformed data provide some support for a third allele. Molecular studies will be needed to validate and characterize the alleles that regulate RBC HNMT activity levels in humans. © 1993 Wiley‐Liss. Inc.
- histamine N‐methyltransferase activity
- segregation analysis
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