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Apolipoprotein J (apoJ, protein; APOJ, gene) is found in serum associated with high-density lipoprotein (HDL) subfractions, which also contain apolipoprotein A-I (apoAl) and cholesteryl ester transfer protein. ApoJ has been shown to be involved in a variety of physiological functions, including lipid transport. In earlier studies we reported the existence of a common genetic polymorphism (APOJ* 1 and APOJ*2 alleles) using isoelectric focusing (IEF) and immunoblotting. In this study we determined the molecular basis of this polymorphism and together with another polymorphism at codon 328 (G —> A) evaluated its relationship with serum HDL cholesterol and apoAl levels in 767 African blacks stratified by staff level: junior (less affluent, n = 450) and senior (more affluent, n = 317). The molecular analysis of the cathodally shifted APOJ*2 allele on IEF gels revealed an amino acid substitution of asparagine by histidine resulting from a missense mutation (A —> C) at codon 317 in exon 7. The frequency of the APOJ*2 (C) allele of codon 317 in the total sample was 0.267, whereas that of the less common allele A of codon 328 was 0.04. Despite their close proximity, no linkage disequilibrium was observed between the 2 polymorphisms. The impact of the codon 317 polymorphic variation was significant on serum HDL cholesterol (p = 0.003) and HDL3 cholesterol (p = 0.001) in junior staff. The adjusted mean values of these traits were higher in the codon 317 APOJ*2/*2 genotype than in the *i/*7 and *i/*2 genotypes. Overall, the APOJ codon 317 polymorphism explained 10.2% and 8.3% of the phenotypic variation in HDL cholesterol and HDL3 cholesterol, respectively, in junior staff. The codon 328 polymorphism showed a significant effect on HDL2 cholesterol (p = 0.039) and apoAl (p = 0.007) only in junior women and accounted for 2.5% and 4.2% of the phenotypic variation in HDL2 cholesterol and apoAl, respectively. We also analyzed the combined effects of these genotypes at the 2 polymorphic sites. Significant effects on HDL cholesterol (p = 0.004) and HDL3 cholesterol (p = 0.008) in junior men and on HDL2 cholesterol (p = 0.003) in junior women were observed in the combined genotype data. The 2-locus genotypes explained 6.0% and 5.3% of the residual phenotypic variation of HDL cholesterol and HDL3 cholesterol in junior men and 10.4% of HDL2 cholesterol in junior women. These data indicate that the effect of the APOJ polymorphism on HDL cholesterol levels is modulated by socioeconomic status, as measured by staff level. Given the association of HDL and its subfractions with cardiovascular disease, these polymorphisms may lead to a better understanding of interracial differences in the risk of cardiovascular disease.