Distributions of plasma lipoprotein(a) (Lp[a]) concentrations exhibit marked interracial differences. Apolipoprotein(a) (apo[a]), the unique constituent of Lp(a), is highly polymorphic in length due to allelic variations in the number of kringle 4(K-4)-encoding sequences. Plasma Lp(a) concentrations are inversely related to the number of K-4 repeats in the apo(a) alleles. To determine the contribution of this length variation to the interracial variation in plasma Lp(a) levels, we compared apo(a) allele size, glycoprotein size, and plasma Lp(a) concentrations in Caucasians, Chinese, and African Americans. Caucasians and African Americans had very different distributions of plasma Lp(a) concentrations yet there was no significant difference in the overall frequency distributions of their apo(a) alleles. Over the entire size spectrum of apo(a) alleles, the plasma Lp(a) levels were higher in African Americans than in Caucasians. Conversely, Caucasians and Chinese had similar plasma Lp(a) concentrations but significantly different apo(a) allele size distributions. Therefore, interracial differences in the plasma concentrations of Lp(a) are not due to differences in the frequency distributions of apo(a) alleles. We also examined the relationship between apo(a) allele size and the presence of detectable plasma apo(a) protein in plasma. Apo(a) alleles associated with no detectable plasma protein were not of uniformly large size, as had been expected, but were distributed over the entire size spectrum. From this analysis, we conclude that there is no common 'null' allele at the apo(a) locus.
- African American
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