Angiotensin-converting enzyme genotype and arterial oxygen saturation at high altitude in Peruvian Quechua

Abigail W. Bigham, Melisa Kiyamu, Fabiola León-Velarde, Esteban J. Parra, Maria Rivera-Ch, Mark D. Shriver, Tom D. Brutsaert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


The I-allele of the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) gene insertion/deletion (I/D) polymorphism has been associated with performance benefits at high altitude (HA). In n = 142 young males and females of largely Quechua origins in Peru, we evaluated 3 specific hypotheses with regard to the HA benefits of the I-allele: (1) the I-allele is associated with higher arterial oxygen saturation (SaO2) at HA, (2) the I-allele effect depends on the acclimatization state of the subjects, and (3) the putative I-allele effect on SaO2 is mediated by the isocapnic hypoxic ventilatory response (HVR, l/min-1/% SaO2-1). The subject participants comprised two different study groups including BLA subjects (born at low altitude) who were lifelong sea-level residents transiently exposed to hypobaric hypoxia (<24 h) and BHA subjects (born at HA) who were lifelong residents of HA. To control for the possibility of population stratification, Native American ancestry proportion (NAAP) was estimated as a covariate for each individual using a panel of 70 ancestry-informative molecular markers (AIMS). At HA, resting and exercise SaO2 was strongly associated with the ACE genotype, p = 0.008 with ∼4% of the total variance in SaO2 attributed to ACE genotype. Moreover, I/I individuals maintained ∼2.3 percentage point higher SaO2 compared to I/D and D/D. This I-allele effect was evident in both BLA and BHA groups, suggesting that acclimatization state has little influence on the phenotypic expression of the ACE gene. Finally, ACE genotype was not associated with the isocapnic HVR, although HVR had a strong independent effect on SaO2 (p = 0.001). This suggests that the I-allele effect on SaO2 is not mediated by the peripheral control of breathing, but rather by some other central cardiopulmonary effect of the ACE gene on the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-178
Number of pages12
JournalHigh Altitude Medicine and Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme
  • Genetics
  • Hypoxic ventilatory response
  • Polymorphism
  • Renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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