1. The crucial role played by the renin-angiotensin—aldosterone system in the cardiovascular system and the immense therapeutic potential of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and, more recently, angiotensin II receptor blocking agents, in both heart failure and post-myocardial infarction is becoming increasingly evident. Polymorphisms within the genes controlling this enzyme system are candidates for the elucidation of the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease and this link is both intriguing and provocative. Recently, an association between a polymorphism of the angiotensin-converting enzyme gene and phenotypic expression of cardiovascular disease, namely myocardial infarction, was reported. Since then, several small case-controlled studies have confirmed an association with manifestations of ischaemic heart disease or various other cardiac end-points. However, in a large prospective study the angiotensin-converting enzyme gene conferred no appreciable risk.
2. Our aim was to review the evidence that links polymorphisms of the angiotensin-converting enzyme gene with cardiovascular disease. We searched the Medline database (1990–1997) using the key words myocardial infarction, ischaemic heart disease, angiotensin-converting enzyme and polymorphisms and performed a search of the reference citation of relevant articles. We selected clinical studies on cardiovascular disease related to the angiotensin-converting enzyme genotype
3. Taken together, the available evidence supports the notion that the DD-angiotensin-converting enzyme genotype adversely influences specific cardiovascular diseases but appears to do so in specific geographical areas and in particular patient subgroups. It is not yet known whether it does this through an interaction with other genes or by as yet unexplained biochemical mechanisms.
4. We should regard the current data with the angiotensin-converting enzyme genotype as an intriguing clue in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease. However, the main factor against this potential benefit is that the impact of the DD genotype appears to be small and its clinical manifestations rather heterogeneous.