Differential Distribution of Allelic Variants in Cytokine Genes among African Americans and White Americans

Racial disparities in health are largely unexplained. Because many diseases causing premature mortality among African Americans are mediated by the immune system, the authors explored the race-specific distribution of allelic variants in cytokine genes known to stimulate inflammation. The authors studied women seeking prenatal care and delivering singletons in uncomplicated first births at a US hospital in 1997–2001. A total of 179 African-American women and 396 White women were evaluated for functionally relevant allelic variants in cytokine genes. African-American women were significantly more likely to carry allelic variants known to up-regulate proinflammatory cytokines; odds ratios increased with allele dose. Odds ratios for African Americans versus Whites in genotypes up-regulating proinflammatory interleukin (IL) 1 ( IL1A-4845G/G, IL1A-889T/T, IL1B-3957C/C, and IL1B-511A/A) ranged from 2.1 to 4.9. The proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 IL6-174 G/G genotype was 36.5 times (95% confidence interval (CI): 8.8, 151.9) more common among African Americans. Genotypes known to down-regulate the antiinflammatory interleukin-10 ( IL10-819 T/T and IL10-1082 A/A) were elevated 3.5-fold (95% CI: 1.8, 6.6) and 2.8-fold (95% CI: 1.6, 4.9) in African Americans. Cytokine genotypes found to be more common in African-American women were consistently those that up-regulate inflammation.