EGLN1 [encoding HIF (hypoxia-inducible factor)-prolyl hydroxylase 2] plays a pivotal role in the HIF pathway and has emerged as one of the most intriguing genes with respect to physiology at HA (high altitude). EGLN1, being an actual oxygen sensor, appears to have a potential role in the functional adaptation to the hypobaric hypoxic environment. In the present study, we screened 30 polymorphisms of EGLN1, evaluated its gene expression and performed association analyses. In addition, the role of allelic variants in altering TF (transcription factor)-binding sites and consequently the replacement of TFs at these loci was also investigated. The study was performed in 250 HAPE-p [HAPE (HA pulmonary oedema)-patients], 210 HAPE-f (HAPE-free controls) and 430 HLs (healthy Ladakhi highland natives). The genotypes of seven polymorphisms, rs1538664, rs479200, rs2486729, rs2790879, rs480902, rs2486736 and rs973252, differed significantly between HAPE-p and HAPE-f (P<0.008). The genotypes AA, TT, AA, GG, CC, AA and GG of rs1538664, rs479200, rs2486729, rs2790879, rs480902, rs2486736 and rs973252, prevalent in HAPE-p, were identified as risk genotypes and their counterpart homozygotes, prevalent in HLs, were identified as protective. EGLN1 expression was up-regulated 4.56-fold in HAPE-p (P=0.0084). The risk genotypes, their haplotypes and interacting genotypes were associated with up-regulated EGLN1 expression (P<0.05). Similarly, regression analysis showed that the risk alleles and susceptible haplotypes were associated with decreased SaO2 (arterial oxygen saturation) levels in the three groups. The significant inverse correlation of SaO2 levels with PASP (pulmonary artery systolic pressure) and EGLN1 expression and the association of these polymorphisms with SaO2 levels and EGLN1 expression contributed to uncovering the molecular mechanism underlying hypobaric hypoxic adaptation and maladaptation.

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