Background. PON1, an arylesterase, associated with high density lipoprotein (HDL), protects low density lipoprotein (LDL) against oxidative modification. Common polymorphisms PON1 55 (L/M) and 192 (Q/R) in the PON1 gene associate with atherosclerosis and heart disease. Because long-lived people seem protected from premature vascular death, we conducted a pooled statistical analysis to assess any association between these polymorphisms and longevity in a large combined group of Italian centenarians and octo/nonagenarians from Northern Ireland (NI). Materials and methods. Separated DNA was available from 1479 subjects from Italy and Northern Ireland (NI). In Italy 308 centenarians (males 67, females 241, mean age 100.8, SD2.1 years) and 579 young controls (males 347, females 232, mean age 40.7, SD 12.7 years) were included in the study. In NI, 296 octo/nonagenarians (males 92, females 204, mean age 89.8, SD 5.7 years) and 296 young sex-matched subjects (mean age 13.0, SD 1.4 years) had available DNA. PON1 55 (L/M) and 192 (Q/R) polymorphisms were studied using a PCR-RFLP approach. Results. There was a significant difference in PON1 192 genotypes in Italian centenarians compared to younger controls (X 2=6.8, df=2, p=0.03) and a similar but non significant trend between octo/nonagenarian and young subjects in NI (X2=4.0, df=2, p=0.14). Using logistic regression analysis on the combined Italian and Irish datasets, there was a small survival advantage for centenarian and octo/nonagenarian subjects who were heterozygous for PON1 192 R allele, (OR 1.3, CI 1-1.6; p=0.04) with a stepwise increase for RR homozygous subjects (OR 1.7, CI 1.1-2.6; p=0.02), compared to QQ subjects. Comparing R and Q alleles there was a survival advantage for octo/nonagenarian/centenarian subjects who carried the R allele (OR 1.3, CI 1.1-1.5; p=0.007), but there was no sex-specific effect (p=0.77). LL, LM and MM genotypes of PON 55 polymorphisms showed similar frequencies in Italy (39.9, 47.0, 13.1%) and Ireland (39.5, 48.6, 11.9%) with no age or sex-related differences. The PON1 192R/Q and PON55L/M loci were in strong linkage disequilibrium with a Lewontin's D′ coefficient -0.928 (elderly) and -0.965 (young). There was a significant difference in haplotype frequency of these linked loci in older compared to younger subjects (Likelihood Ratio X2=9.60, df=3, p=0.02). Conclusion. These data suggest a modest association between the 192R allele and longevity in two very elderly populations in two European countries. Being homozygous for 192 RR further enhances survival advantage but this effect was not found to be sex specific. This finding is of interest because the 192R allele has previously been associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease. On the other hand, the 192R allele shows higher enzymatic activity, using paraoxon as substrate, and we postulate that its role in the metabolism of potentially toxic chemicals or other metabolic pathways may be important in survival to very old age.
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