Genes, Cigarettes, and Blood Pressure: a Revealing Relationship

Cigarette smoking may be the key that unlocks more genetic mysteries of blood pressure.


Using a technique called “gene-environment interaction analysis,” National Institutes of Health researchers zeroed in on areas of the genome associated with blood pressure. Cigarette smoking, known to raise blood pressure (BP), was an environmental “marker.”

The researchers tested different points of the genome in > 610,000 people from 5 ancestry groups to find where cigarette smoking and BP interacted.

They confirmed 56 known genetic regions and identified 83 new ones. Ten of the newly discovered genes seemed to have a much larger impact on smokers’ BP vs that of nonsmokers, the researchers say—levels were as much as 8 times higher.

Previous genetic studies have identified genes and genetic regions associated with BP but have not explored the interplay between genes and environmental factors, the researchers say. Moreover, the broad cohort of the new study makes the findings widely useful. Most of the known genetic regions linked to BP were identified through European descendants. In this study, several novel regions were identified through African ancestry analysis, “highlighting the importance of pursuing genetic studies in diverse populations.”

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