CardioGxE, a catalog of gene-environment interactions for cardiometabolic traits
Apolipoprotein A-IV (apo A-IV) is a 46-Kd plasma glycoprotein that may play a major role in intestinal lipid absorption. A genetic polymorphism in the apo A-IV gene, apo A-IV-2, encodes a His-->Gln substitution at codon 360 that alters the biological function of this apolipoprotein. As the worldwide distribution of the apo A-IV-2 allele appeared similar to the frequency of a genetic polymorphism that determines the persistence of lactase into adulthood, we examined the relationship between the apo A-IV-2 and lactase persistence polymorphisms by compiling the prevalence of adult lactase persistence in all populations in which the frequency of the apo A-IV-2 allele has been determined. Across 29 groups, there was an extremely strong correlation (4 = 0.937, P < 0.000001) between apo A-IV-2 allele frequency and the prevalence of adult lactase persistence. Apo A-IV-2 allele frequency was highest in Iceland, an ancient Viking colony, and decreased across Europe in a north-to-south and west-to-east gradient, generally following hypothetical isoclines for the lactase persistence gene. There were no correlations between the population frequencies of the apo E2, E3, or E4 alleles and either the prevalence of lactase persistence or the frequency of the apo A-IV-2 allele. In light of the effects of the apo A-IV-2 polymorphism on lipid metabolism, we speculate that the apo A-IV-2 allele may have originated in ancient Scandinavia, spread by conferring a nutritional advantage in the setting of a lifelong high milkfat intake, and was later carried southwards by the Viking incursions into Europe.