Heritability of The Retinal Microcirculation in Flemish Families

Yan-Ping Liu, Tatiana Kuznetsova, Yu Jin, Lutgarde Thijs, Kei Asayama, Yu-Mei Gu, Murielle Bochud, Peter Verhamme, Harry A. J. Struijker-Boudier, Jan A. Staessen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND Few population studies have described the heritability and intrafamilial concordance of the retinal microvessels, or the genetic or environmental correlations of the phenotypes of these vessels. METHODS We randomly selected 413 participants from 70 families (mean age, 51.5 years; 50.1% women) from a Flemish population. We post-processed retinal images using IVAN software to generate the central retinal arteriole equivalent (CRAE), central retinal venule equivalent (CRVE), and arteriole-to-venule-ratio (AVR) from these images. We used SAGE version 6.2 and SAS version 9.2 to compute multivariate-adjusted estimates of heritability and intrafamilial correlations of the CRAE, CRVE, and AVR of the retinal microvessels in the images. RESULTS Sex, age, mean arterial pressure, and smoking explained up to 12.7% of the variance of the phenotypes of the retinal microvessels of the study participants. With adjustments applied for these covariates, the heritability estimates of CRAE, CRVE, and AVR were 0.213 (P = 0.044), 0.339 (P = 0.010), and 0.272 (P = 0.004), respectively. The parent-off-spring correlations for CRAE, CRVE, and AVR were 0.118 (NS), 0.225 (P <0.01), and 0.215 (P <0.05), respectively. The corresponding values were 0.222 (P <0.05), 0.213 (P <0.05), and 0.390 (P <0.001) for sib sib correlations, respectively. The genetic and environmental correlations between CRAE and CRVE were 0.360 and 0.545 (P <0.001 for both). CONCLUSION Our study showed moderate heritability for CRAE, CRVE, and AVR, and a significant genetic correlation of CRAE with CRVE in the Flemish population of our study. These findings suggest that genetic factors influence the diameter of the retinal microvessels, and that CRAE and CRVE share some genetic determinants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-399
JournalAmerican Journal of Hypertension
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • blood pressure
  • heritability
  • hypertension
  • microcirculation
  • retina

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