Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are routinely being used to examine the genetic contribution to complex human traits, such as high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). Although HDL-C levels are highly heritable (h2∼0.7), the genetic determinants identified through GWAS contribute to a small fraction of the variance in this trait. Reasons for this discrepancy may include rare variants, structural variants, gene-environment (GxE) interactions, and gene-gene (GxG) interactions. Clinical practice-based biobanks now allow investigators to address these challenges by conducting GWAS in the context of comprehensive electronic medical records (EMRs). Here we apply an EMR-based phenotyping approach, within the context of routine care, to replicate several known associations between HDL-C and previously characterized genetic variants: CETP (rs3764261, p = 1.22e-25), LIPC (rs11855284, p = 3.92e-14), LPL (rs12678919, p = 1.99e-7), and the APOA1/C3/A4/A5 locus (rs964184, p = 1.06e-5), all adjusted for age, gender, body mass index (BMI), and smoking status. By using a novel approach which censors data based on relevant co-morbidities and lipid modifying medications to construct a more rigorous HDL-C phenotype, we identified an association between HDL-C and TRIB1, a gene which previously resisted identification in studies with larger sample sizes. Through the application of additional analytical strategies incorporating biological knowledge, we further identified 11 significant GxG interaction models in our discovery cohort, 8 of which show evidence of replication in a second biobank cohort. The strongest predictive model included a pairwise interaction between LPL (which modulates the incorporation of triglyceride into HDL) and ABCA1 (which modulates the incorporation of free cholesterol into HDL). These results demonstrate that gene-gene interactions modulate complex human traits, including HDL cholesterol.
We report a systems genetics analysis of high density lipoproteins (HDL) levels in an F2 intercross between inbred strains CAST/EiJ and C57BL/6J. We previously showed that there are dramatic differences in HDL metabolism in a cross between these strains, and we now report co-expression network analysis of HDL that integrates global expression data from liver and adipose with relevant metabolic traits. Using data from a total of 293 F2 intercross mice, we constructed weighted gene co-expression networks and identified modules (subnetworks) associated with HDL and clinical traits. These were examined for genes implicated in HDL levels based on large human genome-wide associations studies (GWAS) and examined with respect to conservation between tissue and sexes in a total of 9 data sets. We identify genes that are consistently ranked high by association with HDL across the 9 data sets. We focus in particular on two genes, Wfdc2 and Hdac3, that are located in close proximity to HDL QTL peaks where causal testing indicates that they may affect HDL. Our results provide a rich resource for studies of complex metabolic interactions involving HDL.
Plasma level of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C), a heritable trait, is an important determinant of susceptibility to atherosclerosis. Non-synonymous and regulatory single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes implicated in HDL-C synthesis and metabolism are likely to influence plasma HDL-C, apolipoprotein A-I (apo A-I) levels and severity of coronary atherosclerosis.
We genotyped 784 unrelated Caucasian individuals from two sets of populations (Lipoprotein and Coronary Atherosclerosis Study- LCAS, N = 333 and TexGen, N = 451) for 94 SNPs in 42 candidate genes by 5' nuclease assays. We tested the distribution of the phenotypes by the Shapiro-Wilk normality test. We used Box-Cox regression to analyze associations of the non-normally distributed phenotypes (plasma HDL-C and apo A-I levels) with the genotypes. We included sex, age, body mass index (BMI), diabetes mellitus (DM), and cigarette smoking as covariates. We calculated the q values as indicators of the false positive discovery rate (FDR).
Plasma HDL-C levels were associated with sex (higher in females), BMI (inversely), smoking (lower in smokers), DM (lower in those with DM) and SNPs in APOA5, APOC2, CETP, LPL and LIPC (each q ≤0.01). Likewise, plasma apo A-I levels, available in the LCAS subset, were associated with SNPs in CETP, APOA5, and APOC2 as well as with BMI, sex and age (all q values ≤0.03). The APOA5 variant S19W was also associated with minimal lumen diameter (MLD) of coronary atherosclerotic lesions, a quantitative index of severity of coronary atherosclerosis (q = 0.018); mean number of coronary artery occlusions (p = 0.034) at the baseline and progression of coronary atherosclerosis, as indicated by the loss of MLD.
Putatively functional variants of APOA2, APOA5, APOC2, CETP, LPL, LIPC and SOAT2 are independent genetic determinants of plasma HDL-C levels. The non-synonymous S19W SNP in APOA5 is also an independent determinant of plasma apo A-I level, severity of coronary atherosclerosis and its progression.
High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and triglyceride (TG) levels are influenced by both genes and the environment. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified ~100 common genetic variants associated with HDL-C, LDL-C, and/or TG levels, mostly in populations of European descent, but little is known about the modifiers of these associations. Here, we investigated whether GWAS-identified SNPs for lipid traits exhibited heterogeneity by sex in the Population Architecture using Genomics and Epidemiology (PAGE) study.
A sex-stratified meta-analysis was performed for 49 GWAS-identified SNPs for fasting HDL-C, LDL-C, and ln(TG) levels among adults self-identified as European American (25,013). Heterogeneity by sex was established when phet < 0.001. There was evidence for heterogeneity by sex for two SNPs for ln(TG) in the APOA1/C3/A4/A5/BUD13 gene cluster: rs28927680 (phet = 7.4x10-7) and rs3135506 (phet = 4.3x10-4), one SNP in PLTP for HDL levels (rs7679; phet = 9.9x10-4), and one in HMGCR for LDL levels (rs12654264; phet = 3.1x10-5). We replicated heterogeneity by sex in five of seventeen loci previously reported by genome-wide studies (binomial p = 0.0009). We also present results for other racial/ethnic groups in the supplementary materials, to provide a resource for future meta-analyses.
We provide further evidence for sex-specific effects of SNPs in the APOA1/C3/A4/A5/BUD13 gene cluster, PLTP, and HMGCR on fasting triglyceride levels in European Americans from the PAGE study. Our findings emphasize the need for considering context-specific effects when interpreting genetic associations emerging from GWAS, and also highlight the difficulties in replicating interaction effects across studies and across racial/ethnic groups.
Lipids; Genetics; Cardiovascular disease; Heterogeneity; Sex-specific effect; Association study
For the past five years, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified hundreds of common variants associated with human diseases and traits, including high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and triglyceride (TG) levels. Approximately 95 loci associated with lipid levels have been identified primarily among populations of European ancestry. The Population Architecture using Genomics and Epidemiology (PAGE) study was established in 2008 to characterize GWAS–identified variants in diverse population-based studies. We genotyped 49 GWAS–identified SNPs associated with one or more lipid traits in at least two PAGE studies and across six racial/ethnic groups. We performed a meta-analysis testing for SNP associations with fasting HDL-C, LDL-C, and ln(TG) levels in self-identified European American (∼20,000), African American (∼9,000), American Indian (∼6,000), Mexican American/Hispanic (∼2,500), Japanese/East Asian (∼690), and Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian (∼175) adults, regardless of lipid-lowering medication use. We replicated 55 of 60 (92%) SNP associations tested in European Americans at p<0.05. Despite sufficient power, we were unable to replicate ABCA1 rs4149268 and rs1883025, CETP rs1864163, and TTC39B rs471364 previously associated with HDL-C and MAFB rs6102059 previously associated with LDL-C. Based on significance (p<0.05) and consistent direction of effect, a majority of replicated genotype-phentoype associations for HDL-C, LDL-C, and ln(TG) in European Americans generalized to African Americans (48%, 61%, and 57%), American Indians (45%, 64%, and 77%), and Mexican Americans/Hispanics (57%, 56%, and 86%). Overall, 16 associations generalized across all three populations. For the associations that did not generalize, differences in effect sizes, allele frequencies, and linkage disequilibrium offer clues to the next generation of association studies for these traits.
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and triglyceride (TG) levels are well known independent risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Lipid-associated genetic variants are being discovered in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in samples of European descent, but an insufficient amount of data exist in other populations. Therefore, there is a strong need to characterize the effect of these GWAS–identified variants in more diverse cohorts. In this study, we selected over forty genetic loci previously associated with lipid levels and tested for replication in a large European American cohort. We also investigated if the effect of these variants generalizes to non-European descent populations, including African Americans, American Indians, and Mexican Americans/Hispanics. A majority of these GWAS–identified associations replicated in our European American cohort. However, the ability of associations to generalize across other racial/ethnic populations varied greatly, indicating that some of these GWAS–identified variants may not be functional and are more likely to be in linkage disequilibrium with the functional variant(s).
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified numerous loci associated with various complex traits for which the underlying susceptibility gene(s) remain unknown. In a GWAS for high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C) level, one strongly associated locus contains at least two biologically compelling candidates, methylmalonic aciduria cblB type (MMAB) and mevalonate kinase (MVK). To detect evidence of cis-acting regulation at this locus, we measured relative allelic expression of transcribed SNPs in five genes using human hepatocyte samples heterozygous for the transcribed SNP. If an HDL-C-associated SNP allele differentially regulates mRNA level in cis, samples heterozygous both for a transcribed SNP and an HDL-C-associated SNP should display allelic expression imbalance (AEI) of the transcribed SNP. We designed statistical tests to detect AEI in a comprehensive set of linkage disequilibrium (LD) scenarios between the transcribed SNP and an HDL-C-associated SNP (rs7298565) in phase unknown samples. We observed significant AEI of 22% in MMAB (P = 1.4 × 10−13, transcribed SNP rs11067231), and the allele associated with lower HDL-C level was associated with greater MMAB transcript level. The same rs7298565 allele was also associated with higher MMAB mRNA level (P = 0.0081) and higher MMAB protein level (P = 0.0020). In contrast, MVK, UBE3B, KCTD10 and ACACB did not show significant AEI (P ≥ 0.05). These data suggest MMAB is the most likely gene influencing HDL-C levels at this locus and demonstrate that measuring AEI at loci containing more than one candidate gene can prioritize genes for functional studies.
We previously reported linkage for plasma levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) on 15q21 in Caucasian families from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study (NHLBI FHS). Hepatic lipase gene (LIPC), which has a major role in lipoprotein metabolism, resides within the linkage region and constitutes an obvious candidate gene. While hepatic lipase is a known player in HDL metabolism, the relationship between common LIPC variants and HDL-C levels remains unclear. In the current study, we employed population-based and family-based tests of association with both quantitative HDL-C levels and a dichotomous dyslipidemia trait (affected men: HDL < 40 mg/dL and women: HDL < 50 mg/dL, denoted as low HDL). We genotyped 19 tag-SNPs spanning 139.9 kb around the LIPC in the 591 families (2238 subjects). Strong association in a proxy-promoter 5′ SNP (rs261342) and HDL-C levels was detected in women, but not in men. The less common allele was associated with an increase of ~14% in HDL-C levels, and a decrease of ~30% in risk of low HDL. In addition, strong association in women of an intron 1 SNP (rs12593008) and low HDL and moderate association in men (rs8028759) with both HDL-C levels and low HDL phenotype were found and may represent either functional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), or more likely, SNPs in linkage disequilibrium with functional variants. Because of the association of lipid abnormalities with diabetes, and other lifestyle parameters, we also performed association analyses using different covariate adjustments as well as strategically selected sub-samples. The sex-specific association of rs261342, rs12593008 or rs8028759 remained substantially the same through these analyses. Finally, we found that a common haplotype was overtransmitted to off-spring with low HDL-C. The sex-specific associations found in our study could be due to the interactions with the endogenous hormonal environment, lifestyle and/or genetic factors, although the underlying physiologic mechanisms are not understood.
Lipids; Cardiovascular disease; Diabetes; BMI; Polymorphism; Hepatic lipase
Total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglyceride, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels are among the most important risk factors for coronary artery disease. We tested for gene–gene interactions affecting the level of these four lipids based on prior knowledge of established genome-wide association study (GWAS) hits, protein–protein interactions, and pathway information. Using genotype data from 9,713 European Americans from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, we identified an interaction between HMGCR and a locus near LIPC in their effect on HDL-C levels (Bonferroni corrected Pc = 0.002). Using an adaptive locus-based validation procedure, we successfully validated this gene–gene interaction in the European American cohorts from the Framingham Heart Study (Pc = 0.002) and the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA; Pc = 0.006). The interaction between these two loci is also significant in the African American sample from ARIC (Pc = 0.004) and in the Hispanic American sample from MESA (Pc = 0.04). Both HMGCR and LIPC are involved in the metabolism of lipids, and genome-wide association studies have previously identified LIPC as associated with levels of HDL-C. However, the effect on HDL-C of the novel gene–gene interaction reported here is twice as pronounced as that predicted by the sum of the marginal effects of the two loci. In conclusion, based on a knowledge-driven analysis of epistasis, together with a new locus-based validation method, we successfully identified and validated an interaction affecting a complex trait in multi-ethnic populations.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified many loci associated with complex human traits or diseases. However, the fraction of heritable variation explained by these loci is often relatively low. Gene–gene interactions might play a significant role in complex traits or diseases and are one of the many possible factors contributing to the missing heritability. However, to date only a few interactions have been found and validated in GWAS due to the limited power caused by the need for multiple-testing correction for the very large number of tests conducted. Here, we used three types of prior knowledge, known GWAS hits, protein–protein interactions, and pathway information, to guide our search for gene–gene interactions affecting four lipid levels. We identified an interaction between HMGCR and a locus near LIPC in their effect on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and another pair of loci that interact in their effect on low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C). We validated the interaction on HDL-C in a number of independent multiple-ethnic populations, while the interaction underlying LDL-C did not validate. The prior knowledge-driven searching approach and a locus-based validation procedure show the potential for dissecting and validating gene–gene interactions in current and future GWAS.
A large variety of proteins involved in inflammation, coagulation, lipid-oxidation and lipid metabolism have been associated with high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and it is anticipated that changes in the HDL proteome have implications for the multiple functions of HDL. Here, SELDI-TOF mass spectrometry (MS) was used to study the dynamic changes of HDL protein composition in a human experimental low-dose endotoxemia model. Ten healthy men with low HDL cholesterol (0.7+/-0.1 mmol/L) and 10 men with high HDL cholesterol levels (1.9+/-0.4 mmol/L) were challenged with endotoxin (LPS) intravenously (1 ng/kg bodyweight). We previously showed that subjects with low HDL cholesterol are more susceptible to an inflammatory challenge. The current study tested the hypothesis that this discrepancy may be related to differences in the HDL proteome.
Plasma drawn at 7 time-points over a 24 hour time period after LPS challenge was used for direct capture of HDL using antibodies against apolipoprotein A-I followed by subsequent SELDI-TOF MS profiling. Upon LPS administration, profound changes in 21 markers (adjusted p-value < 0.05) were observed in the proteome in both study groups. These changes were observed 1 hour after LPS infusion and sustained up to 24 hours, but unexpectedly were not different between the 2 study groups. Hierarchical clustering of the protein spectra at all time points of all individuals revealed 3 distinct clusters, which were largely independent of baseline HDL cholesterol levels but correlated with paraoxonase 1 activity. The acute phase protein serum amyloid A-1/2 (SAA-1/2) was clearly upregulated after LPS infusion in both groups and comprised both native and N-terminal truncated variants that were identified by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry. Individuals of one of the clusters were distinguished by a lower SAA-1/2 response after LPS challenge and a delayed time-response of the truncated variants.
This study shows that the semi-quantitative differences in the HDL proteome as assessed by SELDI-TOF MS cannot explain why subjects with low HDL cholesterol are more susceptible to a challenge with LPS than those with high HDL cholesterol. Instead the results indicate that hierarchical clustering could be useful to predict HDL functionality in acute phase responses towards LPS.
Epidemiological studies have shown that low plasma levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but the mechanisms for the possible atheroprotective effects of HDL cholesterol have still not been fully clarified, in particular in relation to clinical studies.
To examine the inflammatory, anti-oxidative and metabolic phenotype of subjects with low plasma HDL cholesterol levels.
Methods and Results
Fifteen subjects with low HDL cholesterol levels (eleven males and four females) and 19 subjects with high HDL (three males and 16 females) were recruited. Low HDL cholesterol was defined as ≤10th age/sex specific percentile and high HDL-C was defined as ≥90 age/sex specific percentile. Inflammatory markers in circulation and PBMC gene expression of cholesterol efflux mediators were measured. Our main findings were: (i) subjects with low plasma HDL cholesterol levels were characterized by increased plasma levels of CRP, MMP-9, neopterin, CXCL16 and ICAM-1 as well as low plasma levels of adiponectin, suggesting an inflammatory phenotype; (ii) these individuals also had reduced paraoxonase (PON)1 activity in plasma and PON2 gene expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) accompanied by increased plasma levels of oxidized LDL suggesting decreased anti-oxidative capacity; and (iii) PBMC from low HDL subjects also had decreased mRNA levels of ABCA1 and ABCG1, suggesting impaired reverse cholesterol transport.
Subjects with low plasma HDL cholesterol levels are characterized by an inflammatory and oxidative phenotype that could contribute to the increased risk of atherosclerotic disorders in these subjects with low HDL levels.
Cholesterol concentrations in blood are related to cardiovascular diseases. Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of cholesterol levels identified a number of single-locus effects on total cholesterol (TC) and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels. Here, we report single-locus and epistasis SNP effects on TC and HDL-C using the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) data.
Single-locus effects and pairwise epistasis effects of 432,096 SNP markers were tested for their significance on log-transformed TC and HDL-C levels. Twenty nine additive SNP effects reached single-locus genome-wide significance (p < 7.2 × 10-8) and no dominance effect reached genome-wide significance. Two new gene regions were detected, the RAB3GAP1-R3HDM1-LCT-MCM6 region of chr02 for TC identified by six new SNPs, and the OSBPL8-ZDHHC17 region (chr12) for HDL-C identified by one new SNP. The remaining 22 single-locus SNP effects confirmed previously reported genes or gene regions. For TC, three SNPs identified two gene regions that were tightly linked with previously reported genes associated with TC, including rs599839 that was 10 bases downstream PSRC1 and 3.498 kb downstream CELSR2, rs4970834 in CELSR2, and rs4245791 in ABCG8 that slightly overlapped with ABCG5. For HDL-C, LPL was confirmed by 12 SNPs 8-45 kb downstream, CETP by two SNPs 0.5-11 kb upstream, and the LIPG-ACAA2 region by five SNPs inside this region. Two epistasis effects on TC and thirteen epistasis effects on HDL-C reached the significance of "suggestive linkage". The most significant epistasis effect (p = 5.72 × 10-13) was close to reaching "significant linkage" and was a dominance × dominance effect of HDL-C between LMBRD1 (chr06) and the LRIG3 region (chr12), and this pair of gene regions had six other D × D effects with "suggestive linkage".
Genome-wide association analysis of the FHS data detected two new gene regions with genome-wide significance, detected epistatic SNP effects on TC and HDL-C with the significance of suggestive linkage in seven pairs of gene regions, and confirmed some previously reported gene regions associated with TC and HDL-C.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the developed world. Epidemiologic data support a strong relationship of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) with both elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). The study of the human genetics of plasma lipid traits, both rare Mendelian disorders as well as common variants, has illuminated multiple genes and pathways involved in the regulation of LDL-C and HDL-C levels. Mendelian disorders of extremes of LDL-C and Mendelian randomization studies of common gene variants associated with LDL-C strongly support a causal relationship between LDL-C and ASCVD, independent of mechanism. In contrast, Mendelian disorders of extremes of HDL-C and Mendelian randomization studies of common genetic variants for HDL-C are inconsistent in their support of a causal relationship between HDL-C and ASCVD. In contrast to LDL-C, a causal relationship between HDL-C and ASCVD may be dependent on the specific mechanism leading to variation in HDL-C levels.
Lipid; Lipoprotein; LDL; HDL; Human genetics; Cardiovascular disease; Genome-wide association; Mendelian randomization
Despite a robust inverse association between high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, the development of new therapies based on pharmacologic enhancement of HDL metabolism has proven challenging. Emerging evidence suggests that static measurement of HDL levels has inherent limitations as a surrogate for overall HDL functionality, particularly with regard to the rate of flux through the macrophage reverse cholesterol transport (RCT) pathway. Recent research has provided important insight into the molecular underpinnings of RCT, the process by which excess cellular cholesterol is effluxed from peripheral tissues and returned to the liver for ultimate intestinal excretion. This review discusses the critical importance and current strategies for quantifying RCT flux. It also highlights therapeutic strategies for augmenting macrophage RCT via three conceptual approaches: 1) improved efflux of cellular cholesterol via targeting the macrophage; 2) enhanced cholesterol efflux acceptor functionality of circulating HDL; and 3) increased hepatic uptake and biliary/intestinal excretion.
Reverse cholesterol transport; High-density lipoprotein; Lipid metabolism
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified a number of loci/SNPs associated with plasma total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and triglyceride (TG) levels. The purpose of this study was to replicate 40 recent GWAS-identified HDL-C-related new loci in 3 epidemiological samples comprising U.S. non-Hispanic Whites (NHWs), U.S. Hispanics, and African Blacks. In each sample, the association analyses were performed with all 4 major lipid traits regardless of previously reported specific associations with selected SNPs. A total of 22 SNPs showed nominally significant association (p<0.05) with at least one lipid trait in at least one ethnic group, although not always with the same lipid traits reported as genome-wide significant in the original GWAS. The total number of significant loci was 10 for TC, 12 for LDL-C, 10 for HDL-C, and 6 for TG levels. Ten SNPs were significantly associated with more than one lipid trait in at least one ethnic group. Six SNPs were significantly associated with at least one lipid trait in more than one ethnic group, although not always with the same trait across various ethnic groups. For 25 SNPs, the associations were replicated with the same genome-wide significant lipid traits in the same direction in at least one ethnic group; at nominal significance for 13 SNPs and with a trend for association for 12 SNPs. However, the associations were not consistently present in all ethnic groups. This observation was consistent with mixed results obtained in other studies that also examined various ethnic groups.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have successfully identified loci associated with quantitative traits, such as blood lipids. Deep resequencing studies are being utilized to catalogue the allelic spectrum at GWAS loci. The goal of these studies is to identify causative variants and missing heritability, including heritability due to low frequency and rare alleles with large phenotypic impact. Whereas rare variant efforts have primarily focused on nonsynonymous coding variants, we hypothesized that noncoding variants in these loci are also functionally important. Using the HDL-C gene LIPG as an example, we explored the effect of regulatory variants identified through resequencing of subjects at HDL-C extremes on gene expression, protein levels, and phenotype. Resequencing a portion of the LIPG promoter and 5′ UTR in human subjects with extreme HDL-C, we identified several rare variants in individuals from both extremes. Luciferase reporter assays were used to measure the effect of these rare variants on LIPG expression. Variants conferring opposing effects on gene expression were enriched in opposite extremes of the phenotypic distribution. Minor alleles of a common regulatory haplotype and noncoding GWAS SNPs were associated with reduced plasma levels of the LIPG gene product endothelial lipase (EL), consistent with its role in HDL-C catabolism. Additionally, we found that a common nonfunctional coding variant associated with HDL-C (rs2000813) is in linkage disequilibrium with a 5′ UTR variant (rs34474737) that decreases LIPG promoter activity. We attribute the gene regulatory role of rs34474737 to the observed association of the coding variant with plasma EL levels and HDL-C. Taken together, the findings show that both rare and common noncoding regulatory variants are important contributors to the allelic spectrum in complex trait loci.
Genetic association studies have identified genomic regions that affect quantifiable traits such as lipid levels. When a gene and a trait are found to be associated with one another, the gene is often further studied to determine its role in affecting the trait. One approach is to sequence the gene in individuals at the extremes of the trait's distribution with the hope of finding rare mutations that directly contribute to the trait. Until now studies using this approach have focused on genetic variation in the protein coding sequence of these genes and have been largely successful in identifying functionally important mutations. However, other studies have found an abundance of noncoding variation in the genome that may also contribute to the heritability of these traits. Here we seek to determine the contribution of such noncoding mutations to high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels in humans using the HDL-C candidate gene LIPG as an example. Through a sequencing study in individuals with high and low HDL-C levels, we demonstrate that both rare and common noncoding mutations are influential contributors to the allelic spectrum of such traits and should be further characterized after initial association with the trait.
Serum concentrations of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), triglycerides (TGs) and total cholesterol (TC) are important heritable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Although genome-wide association studies (GWASs) of circulating lipid levels have identified numerous loci, a substantial portion of the heritability of these traits remains unexplained. Evidence of unexplained genetic variance can be detected by combining multiple independent markers into additive genetic risk scores. Such polygenic scores, constructed using results from the ENGAGE Consortium GWAS on serum lipids, were applied to predict lipid levels in an independent population-based study, the Rotterdam Study-II (RS-II). We additionally tested for evidence of a shared genetic basis for different lipid phenotypes. Finally, the polygenic score approach was used to identify an alternative genome-wide significance threshold before pathway analysis and those results were compared with those based on the classical genome-wide significance threshold. Our study provides evidence suggesting that many loci influencing circulating lipid levels remain undiscovered. Cross-prediction models suggested a small overlap between the polygenic backgrounds involved in determining LDL-C, HDL-C and TG levels. Pathway analysis utilizing the best polygenic score for TC uncovered extra information compared with using only genome-wide significant loci. These results suggest that the genetic architecture of circulating lipids involves a number of undiscovered variants with very small effects, and that increasing GWAS sample sizes will enable the identification of novel variants that regulate lipid levels.
serum lipids; polygenic; genome-wide association; polygenic score; pathway analysis
To evaluate the relationship between the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C)/high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) ratio and HDL subclass distribution and to further examine and discuss the potential impact of LDL-C and HDL-C together with TG on HDL subclass metabolism.
Small-sized preβ1-HDL, HDL3b and HDL3a increased significantly while large-sized HDL2a and HDL2b decreased significantly as the LDL-C/HDL-C ratio increased. The subjects in low HDL-C level (< 1.03 mmol/L) who had an elevation of the LDL-C/HDL-C ratio and a reduction of HDL2b/preβ1-HDL regardless of an undesirable or high LDL-C level. At desirable LDL-C levels (< 3.34 mmol/L), the HDL2b/preβ1-HDL ratio was 5.4 for the subjects with a high HDL-C concentration (≥ 1.55 mmol/L); however, at high LDL-C levels (≥ 3.36 mmol/L), the ratio of LDL-C/HDL-C was 2.8 in subjects, and an extremely low HDL2b/preβ1-HDL value although with high HDL-C concentration.
With increase of the LDL-C/HDL-C ratio, there was a general shift toward smaller-sized HDL particles, which implied that the maturation process of HDL was blocked. High HDL-C concentrations can regulate the HDL subclass distribution at desirable and borderline LDL-C levels but cannot counteract the influence of high LDL-C levels on HDL subclass distribution.
Reduced plasma levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol are associated with increased risk for coronary heart disease. Although plasma HDL levels are, in general, inversely related to plasma triglyceride (TG) concentrations, a small proportion of individuals with low HDL cholesterol concentrations have normal plasma TG levels. We wished to determine whether subjects with low plasma levels of HDL cholesterol could be characterized by common abnormalities of lipoprotein metabolism independent of plasma TGs. Therefore, we studied the metabolism of low density lipoprotein (LDL) apolipoprotein B (apo B) and HDL apolipoprotein A-I (apo A-I) in subjects with low plasma HDL cholesterol concentrations with or without hypertriglyceridemia. Nine subjects with low plasma HDL cholesterol levels and normal levels of plasma TGs and LDL cholesterol were studied. Autologous 131I-LDL and 125I-HDL were injected intravenously, and blood samples were collected for 2 weeks. LDL apo B and HDL apo A-I levels were measured by specific radioimmunoassays. Fractional catabolic rates (FCRs, pools per day) and production rates (PRs, milligrams/kilogram · day) for each apolipoprotein were determined. The results were compared with those obtained previously in nine subjects with low plasma HDL cholesterol levels and hypertriglyceridemia and in seven normal subjects. The normal subjects had an HDL apo A-I FCR (mean±SD) of 0.21±0.04. Despite large differences in plasma TG levels, the HDL apo A-I FCRs were similar in the low-HDL, normal-TG group (0.30±0.09) and the low-HDL, high-TG group (0.033±0.10), although only the latter value was significantly increased versus control subjects (p<0.03). Increased apo A-I FCRs were associated with reduced HDL apo A-I levels in both groups of patients. Apo A-I PRs were similar in all groups. In contrast, LDL apo B PR was increased approximately 50% in the low-HDL, normal-TG group (19.3±6.6; p<0.01) compared with normal subjects (12.5±2.6). There was a strong trend toward a greater LDL apo B PR in the low-HDL, high-TG group (17.6±4.5;p=0.06 versus normal subjects) as well. LDL apo B FCRs were similar in all three groups. LDL apo B concentrations were also increased in the group with low HDL cholesterol and normal TG levels. Both groups with low HDL cholesterol levels had cholesterol-depleted LDL and HDL particles. In summary, reduced levels of plasma HDL cholesterol were generally associated with accelerated fractional removal of HDL apo A-I from plasma, increased production of plasma LDL apo B, and evidence of increased cholesteryl ester transfer out of LDL and HDL. The presence of these similar metabolic abnormalities whether or not plasma TG levels were increased suggests that increased apo B production may be a central defect in these patients and that low plasma HDL levels may be closely linked to increased plasma levels of apo B–containing lipoproteins independent of circulating levels of plasma TG.
coronary heart disease; HDL; LDL; apolipoprotein B; apolipoprotein A-I; cholesteryl ester transfer protein; reverse cholesterol transport
High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-c) plays a crucial role in the concept of reverse cholesterol transport and has many other beneficial properties which may interfere with atherogenesis and plaque rupture. Low HDL-c levels are currently considered to be an important risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease. However until recently no effective and safe treatment for powerfully increasing HDL-c selectively was available. This short overview describes possible new therapeutic approaches that may be able to raise HDL-c levels or improve HDL-c metabolism/reverse cholesterol transport. Today, the most important targets to be evaluated are inhibition of cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) and increasing the HDL-c level by infusion of engineered HDL particles. Trials to prove clinical benefit of new HDL-c raising approaches are underway and may well be a new starting point for an optimised prevention and treatment of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
cardiovascular disease; cholesterol; HDL; prevention; treatment; transport
The heritability of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) level is estimated at approximately 50%. Recent genome-wide association studies have identified genes involved in regulation of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels. The precise genetic profile determining heritability of HDL-C however are far from complete and there is substantial room for further characterization of genetic profiles influencing blood lipid levels. Here we report an association study comparing the distribution of 139 SNPs from more than 30 genes between groups that represent extreme ends of HDL-C distribution. We genotyped 704 individuals that were selected from Genome Database of Latvian Population. 10 SNPs from CETP gene showed convincing association with low HDL-C levels (rs1800775, rs3764261, rs173539, rs9939224, rs711752, rs708272, rs7203984, rs7205804, rs11076175 and rs9929488) while 34 SNPs from 10 genes were nominally associated (p<0.05) with HDL-C levels. We have also identified haplotypes from CETP with distinct effects on determination of HDL-C levels. Our conclusion: So far the SNPs in CETP gene are identified as the most common genetic factor influencing HDL-C levels in the representative sample from Latvian population.
A number of therapeutic strategies targeting high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and reverse cholesterol transport are being developed to halt the progression of atherosclerosis or even induce regression. However, circulating HDL cholesterol levels alone represent an inadequate measure of therapeutic efficacy. Evaluation of the potential effects of HDL-targeted interventions on atherosclerosis requires reliable assays of HDL function and surrogate markers of efficacy. Promotion of macrophage cholesterol efflux and reverse cholesterol transport is thought to be one of the most important mechanisms by which HDL protects against atherosclerosis, and methods to assess this pathway in vivo are being developed. Indexes of monocyte chemotaxis, endothelial inflammation, oxidation, nitric oxide production, and thrombosis reveal other dimensions of HDL functionality. Robust, reproducible assays that can be performed widely are needed to move this field forward and permit effective assessment of the therapeutic potential of HDL-targeted therapies.
Plasma levels of high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) are known to be heritable, but only a fraction of the heritability is explained. We used a high density genotyping array containing SNPs from HDL-C candidate genes selected on known biology of HDL-C metabolism, mouse genetic studies, and human genetic association studies. SNP selection was based on tagging-SNPs but also included low-frequency nonsynonymous SNPs.
Methods and Results
Association analysis in a cohort containing extremes of HDL-C (case-control, n=1733) provided a discovery phase, with replication in three additional populations for a total meta-analysis in 7,857 individuals. We replicated the majority of loci identified through genome wide association studies and present on the array (including ABCA1, APOA1/C3/A4/A5, APOB, APOE/C1/C2, CETP, CTCF-PRMT8, FADS1/2/3, GALNT2, LCAT, LILRA3, LIPC, LIPG, LPL, LRP4, SCARB1, TRIB1, ZNF664), and provide evidence suggestive of association in several previously unreported candidate gene loci (including ABCG1, GPR109A/B/81, NFKB1, PON1/2/3/4). There was evidence for multiple, independent association signals in five loci, including association with low frequency nonsynonymous variants.
Genetic loci associated with HDL-C are likely to harbor multiple, independent causative variants, frequently with opposite effects on the HDL-C phenotype. Cohorts composed of extreme individuals may be efficiently used in a case-control discovery of quantitative traits.
lipids; genetic association; HDL cholesterol; cardiovascular diseases
Purpose of review
We review the main findings from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for levels of HDL-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, including approaches to identify the functional variant(s) or gene(s). We discuss study design and challenges related to whole genome or exome sequencing to identify novel genes and variants.
GWAS have detected ~100 loci associated with one or more lipid trait. Fine-mapping of several loci for LDL-c demonstrated that the trait variance explained may double when the variants responsible for the association signals are identified. Experimental follow-up of three loci identified by GWAS has identified functional genes at GALNT2, TRIB1, and SORT1, and a functional variant at SORT1.
The goal of genetic studies for lipid levels is to improve treatment and ultimately reduce the prevalence of heart disease. Many signals identified by GWAS have modest effect sizes, useful for identifying novel biologically-relevant genes, but less useful for personalized medicine. Whole genome or exome sequencing studies may fill this gap by identifying rare variants of larger effect associated with lipid levels and heart disease.
genome-wide association study; lipids; cholesterol; next-generation sequencing
Blood lipid levels including low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and triglycerides (TG) are highly heritable. Genome-wide association is a promising approach to map genetic loci related to these heritable phenotypes.
In 1087 Framingham Heart Study Offspring cohort participants (mean age 47 years, 52% women), we conducted genome-wide analyses (Affymetrix 100K GeneChip) for fasting blood lipid traits. Total cholesterol, HDL-C, and TG were measured by standard enzymatic methods and LDL-C was calculated using the Friedewald formula. The long-term averages of up to seven measurements of LDL-C, HDL-C, and TG over a ~30 year span were the primary phenotypes. We used generalized estimating equations (GEE), family-based association tests (FBAT) and variance components linkage to investigate the relationships between SNPs (on autosomes, with minor allele frequency ≥10%, genotypic call rate ≥80%, and Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium p ≥ 0.001) and multivariable-adjusted residuals. We pursued a three-stage replication strategy of the GEE association results with 287 SNPs (P < 0.001 in Stage I) tested in Stage II (n ~1450 individuals) and 40 SNPs (P < 0.001 in joint analysis of Stages I and II) tested in Stage III (n~6650 individuals).
Long-term averages of LDL-C, HDL-C, and TG were highly heritable (h2 = 0.66, 0.69, 0.58, respectively; each P < 0.0001). Of 70,987 tests for each of the phenotypes, two SNPs had p < 10-5 in GEE results for LDL-C, four for HDL-C, and one for TG. For each multivariable-adjusted phenotype, the number of SNPs with association p < 10-4 ranged from 13 to 18 and with p < 10-3, from 94 to 149. Some results confirmed previously reported associations with candidate genes including variation in the lipoprotein lipase gene (LPL) and HDL-C and TG (rs7007797; P = 0.0005 for HDL-C and 0.002 for TG). The full set of GEE, FBAT and linkage results are posted at the database of Genotype and Phenotype (dbGaP). After three stages of replication, there was no convincing statistical evidence for association (i.e., combined P < 10-5 across all three stages) between any of the tested SNPs and lipid phenotypes.
Using a 100K genome-wide scan, we have generated a set of putative associations for common sequence variants and lipid phenotypes. Validation of selected hypotheses in additional samples did not identify any new loci underlying variability in blood lipids. Lack of replication may be due to inadequate statistical power to detect modest quantitative trait locus effects (i.e., <1% of trait variance explained) or reduced genomic coverage of the 100K array. GWAS in FHS using a denser genome-wide genotyping platform and a better-powered replication strategy may identify novel loci underlying blood lipids.
Low concentrations of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol constitute a risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD). There is increasing evidence that increasing HDL-cholesterol levels reduces cardiovascular risk. The phenotype of low HDL cholesterol with or without elevated triglycerides is common and it is characteristic of patients with central obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus; conditions associated with increased cardiovascular risk and are part of the rubric of the metabolic syndrome. Epidemiological, experimental and clinical trial evidence suggests that there is a good rationale for raising HDL-cholesterol in these and other high-risk patients. The protective effect of HDL-cholesterol against atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease is mediated by both enhanced reverse cholesterol transport (RCT) and by direct anti-atherosclerotic mechanisms. Recent studies have elucidated mechanisms whereby HDL acts to reduce cardiovascular risk, supporting the rationale for targeting of HDL with lipid-modifying therapy. Ongoing investigation of mechanisms by which HDL acts to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis will provide opportunities for the development of new therapeutic strategies to decrease the risk of atherosclerosis.