Acute aortic dissections are a preventable cause of sudden death if individuals at risk are identified and surgically repaired in a non-emergency setting. Although mutations in single genes can be used to identify at-risk individuals, the majority of dissection case subjects do not have evidence of a single gene disorder, but rather have the other major risk factor for dissections, hypertension. Initial genome-wide association studies (GWASs) identified SNPs at the FBN1 locus associated with both thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections. Here, we used the Illumina HumanExome array to genotype 753 individuals of European descent presenting specifically with non-familial, sporadic thoracic aortic dissection (STAD) and compared them to the genotypes of 2,259 control subjects from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study matched for age, gender, and, for the majority of cases, hypertension. SNPs in FBN1, LRP1, and ULK4 were identified to be significantly associated with STAD, and these results were replicated in two independent cohorts. Combining the data from all cohorts confirmed an inverse association between LRP1 rs11172113 and STAD (p = 2.74 × 10(-8); OR = 0.82, 95% CI = 0.76-0.89) and a direct association between ULK4 rs2272007 and STAD (p = 1.15 × 10(-9); OR = 1.35, 95% CI = 1.23-1.49). Genomic copy-number variation analysis independently confirmed that ULK4 deletions were significantly associated with development of thoracic aortic disease. These results indicate that genetic variations in LRP1 and ULK4 contribute to risk for presenting with an acute aortic dissection.
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