1. We used path analysis and maximum-likelihood model fitting to evaluate the relative contributions of genetic and environmental factors to the relationships observed between level of blood pressure and both total plasma calcium concentration and platelet cytosolic free calcium concentration in 109 twin pairs.
2. Total plasma calcium concentration was positively associated with systolic (r = 0.26, P < 0.001) but not diastolic blood pressure, a relationship which remained significant after adjustment for albumin, age and body mass index. A relationship between platelet cytosolic free calcium concentration and both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (r=0.17 and r=0.13, respectively, P ≤ 0.05) was no longer significant after adjustment for age and body mass index.
3. Additive genetic influences, unique environmental effects and age contributed to 60%, 30% and 10% of the variance in systolic blood pressure, respectively. Additive genetic effects explained 78% of the variance in plasma total calcium concentration and at least 48% of the variance in platelet cytosolic free calcium concentration in females and 37% in males.
4. Bivariate factor models provided evidence of genetic, but not environmental, co-variation of total plasma calcium concentration and systolic blood pressure, suggesting that a common genetic factor (or factors) contributes to their univariate relationship. In contrast, there was evidence of environmental, but not genetic, covariation of platelet cytosolic free calcium concentration and systolic blood pressure, suggesting that some of the individual experiences specific to each twin may be causing these two traits to vary together.
5. The possible confounding effects of adiposity and environmental factors should be considered in future studies investigating the role of intracellular calcium levels in the pathogenesis of hypertension.