Heritability of Leukoaraiosis in Hypertensive Sibships

Stephen T. Turner, Clifford R. Jack, Myriam Fornage, Thomas H. Mosley, Eric Boerwinkle, Mariza de Andrade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Ischemic damage to the subcortical white matter of the brain, referred to as leukoaraiosis, is a frequent complication of hypertension-related microvascular disease and contributes to the risk of stroke and vascular dementia. A large genetic contribution to this late-life form of target organ damage was suggested by a study of elderly male twins. As part of the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Arteriopathy (GENOA), 483 non-Hispanic white subjects were recruited to undergo MRI for determination of the brain volume of leukoaraiosis (291 women and 192 men from 210 sibships providing 434 sibling pairs; mean age±SD=65.2±7.3 years). The GENOA-Rochester sibships contain 2 or more siblings with essential hypertension diagnosed before age 60. The frequency distribution of the volume of leukoaraiosis was positively skewed, with a median value of 6.61 cm (interquartile range: 4.77 to 9 0.83 cm). Variance component models were used to estimate the heritability (ie, the proportion of phenotypic variation caused by additive genetic factors). After logarithm transformation of the volume of leukoaraiosis, the estimated heritability (±SE) was 0.802±0.102 (P <0.0001). Adjustments for sex, age, systolic blood pressure, and brain volume reduced the heritability estimate to 0.671±0.110 (P <0.0001). This evidence of strong genetic influence on the susceptibility to leukoaraiosis justifies efforts to localize the responsible genes and characterize the predisposing genetic polymorphisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-487
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004


  • Blood pressure
  • Brain
  • Genetic
  • Genetics
  • Hypertension
  • Ischemia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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