Aims/hypothesis: The findings of studies investigating whether or not low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentration promotes development of atherosclerosis have been contradictory. The present study employed a Mendelian randomisation approach and carotid artery intima-media thickness (cIMT), a surrogate marker of coronary artery disease, to address this question.
Methods: The multicentre, longitudinal Carotid Intima-Media Thickness and IMT-Progression as Predictors of Vascular Events in a High-Risk European Population (IMPROVE) cohort study, which enrolled individuals with at least three cardiovascular risk factors and no history or symptoms of cardiovascular disease, was used for the present investigation. Participants underwent carotid ultrasound examination at baseline and at months 15 and 30. Six single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with serum 25(OH)D concentration in genome-wide association studies were identified and genotyped in 3,418 individuals, of whom 929 had type 2 diabetes.
Results: SNPs in the genes encoding vitamin D binding protein (GC; rs2282679 and rs7041) and 7-dehydrocholesterol reductase/NAD synthetase-1 (DHCR7; rs12785878 and rs3829251) were negatively associated with 25(OH)D levels. Effect sizes and significance of associations between SNPs and 25(OH)D levels differed between individuals with and without type 2 diabetes, although no significant interactions were observed. A SNP in DHCR7 interacted with type 2 diabetes to significantly influence progression of cIMT measures independent of 25(OH)D levels and established risk factors. Expression analysis demonstrated that this SNP modulates DHCR7 mRNA levels in aortic adventitia.
Conclusions/interpretation: SNPs in GC and DHCR7 were associated with serum levels of 25(OH)D, but only rs3829251 (DHCR7) influenced progression of subclinical atherosclerosis, as measured by cIMT, in a manner dependent on type 2 diabetes status but independent of 25(OH)D levels.