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Summary

objective The role of androgens in the pathogenesis of coronary artery disease (CAD) remains controversial. The length of the polyglutamine stretch of the transactivation domain (CAG repeat) of the androgen receptor (AR) inversely affects androgen activity. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of this polymorphism of the AR gene in the extent of CAD in male patients.

design and patients The relationship of the length of the AR gene CAG repeat on the severity of CAD was examined in 131 men (36–86 years old) undergoing coronary angiography.

measurements The severity of CAD was assessed by the number (0–3) of coronary vessels with > 50% reduction in the luminal diameter. The interaction of the AR gene polymorphism with the intima media thickness (IMT) of peripheral arteries and serum levels of sex steroids, insulin and biochemical parameters were also studied.

results The upper quartile of CAG length (range 9–30) was ≥ 23 repeats (longAR). The mean body mass index (BMI) of patients with shorter repeats (< 23; shortAR) was significantly lower than in men with longAR (26·1 vs. 27·6, respectively; P = 0·043 M-W Rank test). There was no correlation between the AR gene repeat length and serum testosterone. Oestradiol levels were significantly higher in longAR (0·19 ± 0·08 nmol/l vs. 0·14 ± 0·07 in shortAR, P = 0·031). This difference was independent of BMI. Men with shortAR had significant CAD (i.e. one to three arteries with stenosis) more frequently (79·5%) than men with longAR (20·5%); of the subjects with stenosis in no arteries, 56·5% had shortAR and 43·5% longAR (χ2 = 4·3, P = 0·038). This association was independent of age and BMI. The IMT of peripheral arteries, lipid parameters, basal insulin resistance, blood pressure and family history for early CAD, did not differ according to AR length.

conclusions The shorter CAG repeat of the AR gene is associated with more severe CAD, which suggests a role for the sensitivity to androgens in the increased frequency of CAD in males. In addition, a protective role of endogenous oestrogen, which is higher in the longAR subgroup, can contribute to the observed difference.