To assess a potential diagnostic and therapeutic biomarker for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), we sequenced the complement factor I gene (CFI) in 2266 individuals with AMD and 1400 without, identifying 231 individuals with rare genetic variants. We evaluated the functional impact by measuring circulating serum factor I (FI) protein levels in individuals with and without rare CFI variants. The burden of very rare (frequency <1/1000) variants in CFI was strongly associated with disease (P = 1.1 × 10(-8)). In addition, we examined eight coding variants with counts ≥5 and saw evidence for association with AMD in three variants. Individuals with advanced AMD carrying a rare CFI variant had lower mean FI compared with non-AMD subjects carrying a variant (P < 0.001). Further new evidence that FI levels drive AMD risk comes from analyses showing individuals with a CFI rare variant and low FI were more likely to have advanced AMD (P = 5.6 × 10(-5)). Controlling for covariates, low FI increased the risk of advanced AMD among those with a variant compared with individuals without advanced AMD with a rare CFI variant (OR 13.6, P = 1.6 × 10(-4)), and also compared with control individuals without a rare CFI variant (OR 19.0, P = 1.1 × 10(-5)). Thus, low FI levels are strongly associated with rare CFI variants and AMD. Enhancing FI activity may be therapeutic and measuring FI provides a screening tool for identifying patients who are most likely to benefit from complement inhibitory therapy.
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press.