An interdisciplinary study, in adult twins and their family members, of the genetic and environmental determinants of complex physiologic functions is in progress. This report summarizes our initial studies of the control of the level of systolic (K1) and diastolic (K5) blood pressure in 202 monogygotic (MZ) and 121 dizygotic (DZ) twins, their spouses and their children. Correlation coefficients for blood pressure were adjusted for the covariates age, sex, body mass index (wt/ht2) and screener, all of which significantly augment most correlations. These adjusted correlation coefficients in MZ twins are 0.5 for both K1 and K5 blood pressure. For DZ twins, the adjusted correlation coefficients are 0.21 (K1) and 0.24 (K5). MZ twin-offspring adjusted correlation coefficients are higher than MZ twin-niece/nephew adjusted correlation coefficients (0.12 and 0.06, respectively, for K1; 0.20 and 0.13, respectively, for K5), despite the genetic identity of these relationships. That environmental factors may explain these differences is suggested by other differences in adjusted correlation coefficients that are greater than those predicted by the degree of genetic similarity. In addition, we have assessed the relationship between two biochemical-physiological processes, the urinary excretion of kallikrein and transport of sodium in the erythrocyte (the sodium countertransport and the sodium-potassium-chloride cotransport systems), and blood pressure control, since both have been implicated in the control of blood pressure level. Although we found evidence for substantial genetic control of both phenomena, we were unable to establish any correlation between either function and the level of blood pressure in our normotensive subjects.
These data point to the operation of three broad categories of control of level of blood pressure: constitutional factors (age, sex, body mass), genetic factors and environmental factors. The identities of the genetic and environmental factors are unknown at this time.