Markers of monocyte activation play a critical role in atherosclerosis, but little is known about the genetic influences on cellular levels. Therefore, we investigated the influence of genetic variants in monocyte differentiation antigen (CD14), toll-like receptor-4 (TLR4), toll-like receptor-2 (TLR2), and myeloperoxidase (MPO) on monocyte surface receptor levels. The study sample consisted of 1,817 members of a biracial cohort of adults from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Carotid MRI Study. Monocyte receptors were measured using flow cytometry on fasting whole blood samples. TLR2 rs1816702 genotype was significantly associated with CD14+/TLR2+ percent of positive cells (%) and median fluorescence intensity (MFI) in whites but not in blacks (p < 0.001). Specifically, the presence of the minor T-allele was associated with increased receptor levels. In blacks, TLR4 rs5030719 was significantly associated with CD14+/TLR4+ monocytes (MFI) with mean ± SE intensities of 16.7 ± 0.05 and 16.0 ± 0.14 for GG and GT/TT genotypes, respectively (p < 0.001). Variants in TLR2 and TLR4 were associated with monocyte receptor levels of TLR2 and TLR4, respectively, in a biracial cohort of adults. To our knowledge, this is the first study to look at associations between variants in the toll-like receptor family and toll-like receptor levels on monocytes.
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