Purpose: Polymorphic variation in the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) and α-actinin-3 (ACTN3) genes has been reported to be associated with endurance and/or power-related human performance. Our aim was to investigate whether polymorphisms in ACE and ACTN3 are associated with elite swimmer status in Caucasian and East Asian populations.
Methods: ACE I/D and ACTN3 R577X genotyping was carried out for 200 elite Caucasian swimmers from European, Commonwealth, Russian, and American cohorts (short and middle distance, ≤400 m, n = 130; long distance, >400 m, n = 70) and 326 elite Japanese and Taiwanese swimmers (short distance, ≤100 m, n = 166; middle distance, 200–400 m, n = 160). Genetic associations were evaluated by logistic regression and other tests accommodating multiple testing adjustment.
Results: ACE I/D was associated with swimmer status in Caucasians, with the D allele being overrepresented in short-and-middle-distance swimmers under both additive and I-allele-dominant models (permutation test P = 0.003 and P = 0.0005, respectively). ACE I/D was also associated with swimmer status in East Asians. In this group, however, the I allele was overrepresented in the short-distance swimmer group (permutation test P = 0.041 and P = 0.0098 under the additive and the D-allele-dominant models, respectively). ACTN3 R577X was not significantly associated with swimmer status in either Caucasians or East Asians.
Conclusions: ACE I/D associations were observed in these elite swimmer cohorts, with different risk alleles responsible for the associations in swimmers of different ethnicities. The functional ACTN3 R577X polymorphism did not show any significant association with elite swimmer status, despite numerous previous reports of associations with “power/sprint” performance in other sports.