aDepartment of Clinical Sciences, Skåne University Hospital, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden bDepartment of Medicine, Italy cDepartment of Life and Reproduction Sciences, University Hospital of Verona, Verona, Italy *E.D. and M.M. contributed equally to the writing of this article.
BACKGROUND: As recently pinpointed by a genome-wide association study the serine/threonine kinase 39 (STK39) is a candidate gene for hypertension. This kinase is strongly implicated in sodium reabsorption by the kidney through its modulating effect on furosemide-sensitive and thiazide-sensitive channels. The aim of our study was to test the effects of the STK39 rs35929607A>G polymorphism on blood pressure (BP) levels and the prevalence and incidence of hypertension in middle-aged Swedes participating in two urban-based surveys in Malmö (Sweden). METHODS: The rs35929607A>G polymorphism was genotyped in 5634 participants included in the cardiovascular cohort of the 'Malmö Diet and Cancer-cardiovascular arm' (MDC-CVA) study and successively in 17 894 participants of the 'Malmö Preventive Project' (MPP) both at baseline and at reinvestigation after a mean of 23 years. The effect of the same single nucleotide polymorphism on salt sensitivity was tested in 39 participants of the Salt Reduction to Avoid Hypertension study. RESULTS: Both before and after adjustment for covariates, the functional rs35929607A>G polymorphism was associated with higher SBP and DBP values in the MDC-CVA, but not in the MPP. In both surveys, the polymorphism was associated with hypertension prevalence; after adjustment using the autosomal-dominant model, the odds ratio for hypertension ranged between 1.077 (MPP at baseline) and 1.151 (MDC-CVA) with P-value less than 0.05. After stratification for sex, the results remained statistically significant in women, but not in men. Carriers of the G-allele displayed an increase in salt sensitivity. CONCLUSION: Our results from two large cohort studies support previous evidence about the association of the STK39 rs35929607A>G variant with hypertension, especially in women. If further confirmed in successive studies, owing to its pivotal role in sodium reabsorption at the renal tubule level, STK39 might prove to be a suitable target for antihypertensive therapy. The greater effect of the STK39 rs35929607A>G polymorphism in women with respect to men deserves further investigation.