CD36 is a class B scavenger receptor recognizing a variety of ligands including long-chain fatty acids and modified LDL. We investigated whether genetic variability at this locus is a determinant of free fatty acid (FFA) plasma levels and risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) in Caucasians. Typing of 21 polymorphic markers, evenly spanning the CD36 gene, revealed two linkage disequilibrium (LD) blocks that could be tagged by five polymorphisms (-33137A > G, -31118G > A, 25444G > A, 27645del > ins and 30294G > C). In 585 non-diabetic individuals of Caucasian origin, the 30294G>C polymorphism was significantly associated with FFA levels (P = 0.02) - an effect that was especially visible among men (P = 0.009). A similar association was observed in this gender at -33137 (P = 0.008) and -31118 (P = 0.028). When the five tag polymorphisms were considered together, men carrying the AGGIG haplotype had 31 % higher FFA (P = 0.0002) and 20% higher triglycerides (P = 0.025) than non-carriers. The same haplotype was associated with increased risk of CAD in 197 type 2 diabetic individuals from the US (OR = 2.3, 95% CI 1.2-4.2). A similar tendency was observed in a group of 321 type 2 diabetic individuals from Italy (OR = 1.4, 0.9-2.3), resulting in an overall relative risk of 1.6 (1.1 -2.3, P = 0.015) in the two populations considered together. By targeted resequencing, we identified a common variant in the CD36 promoter that is in strong LD with the AGGIG haplotype and could be partly responsible for these findings. In conclusion, this comprehensive study of CD36 variability indicates that the common polymorphisms at this locus modulate lipid metabolism and cardiovascular risk in Caucasians.
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