Background: Recent genome-wide association studies have identified common variants associated with high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). Whether these associations are modified by physical activity, which increases HDL-C levels and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, is uncertain.
Methods and results: In a prospective cohort study of 22 939 apparently healthy US women of European ancestry, we selected 58 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 9 genes that demonstrated genome-wide association (P<5×10(-8)) with HDL-C levels and sought evidence of effect modification according to levels of physical activity. Physical activity modified the effects on HDL-C of 7 SNPs at 3 loci, and the strongest evidence of effect was observed for rs10096633 at lipoprotein lipase (LPL), rs1800588 at hepatic lipase (LIPC), and rs1532624 at cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) (each P-interaction<0.05). The per-minor-allele increase in HDL-C for rs1800588 at LIPC and rs1532624 at CETP was greater in active than inactive women, whereas the reverse was observed for rs10096633 at LPL. Minor-allele carrier status at the LPL SNP was associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction in active (hazard ratio, 0.51; 95% confidence interval 0.30-0.86) but not among inactive women (hazard ratio 1.13; 95% confidence interval 0.79 to 1.61; P-interaction=0.007). By contrast, carrier status at the CETP SNP was associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction regardless of activity level (hazard ratio, 0.72; 95% confidence interval, 0.57 to 0.92; P-interaction=0.71). No association between LIPC SNP carrier status and myocardial infarction risk was noted.
Conclusions: The effects of common variants in the LPL, LIPC, and CETP genes on HDL-C levels are modified by physical activity. For a common variant in LPL, the impact on myocardial infarction varied by activity level, whereas the effects of a common variant in CETP on myocardial infarction risk did not.