Metabolic Characterization of a Rare Genetic Variation Within APOC3 and Its Lipoprotein Lipase-Independent Effects

Circ Cardiovasc Genet. 2016 Jun;9(3):231-9. doi: 10.1161/CIRCGENETICS.115.001302. Epub 2016 Apr 25.


Background: Plasma triglyceride levels have been implicated in atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Apolipoprotein C-III (APOC3) plays a key role in the hydrolysis of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins to remnant particles by lipoprotein lipase (LPL) and their uptake by the liver. A rare variant in APOC3(rs138326449) has been associated with triglyceride, very low-density lipoprotein, and high-density lipoprotein levels, as well as risk of coronary heart disease. We aimed to characterize the impact of this locus across a broad set of mainly lipids-focused metabolic measures.

Methods and results: A high-throughput serum nuclear magnetic resonance metabolomics platform was used to quantify 225 metabolic measures in 13 285 participants from 2 European population cohorts. We analyzed the effect of the APOC3 variant on the metabolic measures and used the common LPL(rs12678919) polymorphism to test for LPL-independent effects. Eighty-one metabolic measures showed evidence of association with APOC3(rs138326449). In addition to previously reported triglyceride and high-density lipoprotein associations, the variant was also associated with very low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein composition measures, other cholesterol measures, and fatty acids. Comparison of the APOC3 and LPL associations revealed that APOC3 association results for medium and very large very low-density lipoprotein composition are unlikely to be solely predictable by the action of APOC3 through LPL.

Conclusions: We characterized the effects of the rare APOC3(rs138326449) loss of function mutation in lipoprotein metabolism, as well as the effects of LPL(rs12678919). Our results improve our understanding of the role of APOC3 in triglyceride metabolism, its LPL independent action, and the complex and correlated nature of human metabolites.

Keywords: LPL; VLDL; association studies; genetics; lipids; metabolism; triglycerides.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Apolipoprotein C-III / genetics*
  • Atherosclerosis / blood
  • Atherosclerosis / enzymology
  • Atherosclerosis / genetics*
  • Atherosclerosis / prevention & control
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Child
  • Dyslipidemias / blood
  • Dyslipidemias / drug therapy
  • Dyslipidemias / enzymology
  • Dyslipidemias / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genotype
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Lipoprotein Lipase / genetics
  • Lipoprotein Lipase / metabolism*
  • Lipoproteins, HDL / blood
  • Lipoproteins, VLDL / blood
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Metabolomics / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular
  • Oligonucleotides / therapeutic use
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • United Kingdom


  • Apolipoprotein C-III
  • Biomarkers
  • Hypolipidemic Agents
  • ISIS 304801
  • Lipoproteins, HDL
  • Lipoproteins, VLDL
  • Oligonucleotides
  • Triglycerides
  • LPL protein, human
  • Lipoprotein Lipase