C-reactive protein (CRP) levels are associated with cardiovascular disease and systemic inflammation. We assessed whether CRP-associated loci were associated with serum CRP and retinal markers of microvascular disease, in Asian populations.
Genome-wide association analysis (GWAS) for serum CRP was performed in East-Asian Chinese (N = 2,434) and Malays (N = 2,542) and South-Asian Indians (N = 2,538) from Singapore. Leveraging on GWAS data, we assessed, in silico, association levels among the Singaporean datasets for 22 recently identified CRP-associated loci. At loci where directional inconsistencies were observed, quantification of inter-ethnic linkage disequilibrium (LD) difference was determined. Next, we assessed association for a variant at CRP and retinal vessel traits [central retinal artery equivalent (CRAE) and central retinal vein equivalent (CRVE)] in a total of 24,132 subjects of East-Asian, South-Asian and European ancestry.
Serum CRP was associated with SNPs in/near APOE, CRP, HNF1A and LEPR (p-values ≤4.7×10−8) after meta-analysis of Singaporean populations. Using a candidate-SNP approach, we further replicated SNPs at 4 additional loci that had been recently identified to be associated with serum CRP (IL6R, GCKR, IL6 and IL1F10) (p-values ≤0.009), in the Singaporean datasets. SNPs from these 8 loci explained 4.05% of variance in serum CRP. Two SNPs (rs2847281 and rs6901250) were detected to be significant (p-value ≤0.036) but with opposite effect directions in the Singaporean populations as compared to original European studies. At these loci we did not detect significant inter-population LD differences. We further did not observe a significant association between CRP variant and CRVE or CRAE levels after meta-analysis of all Singaporean and European datasets (p-value >0.058).
Common variants associated with serum CRP, first detected in primarily European studies, are also associated with CRP levels in East-Asian and South-Asian populations. We did not find a causal link between CRP and retinal measures of microvascular disease.