Intracranial aneurysms (IAs) are the result of focal weakness in the artery wall and have a complex genetic makeup. To date, genome-wide association and sequencing studies have had limited success in identifying IA risk factors. Distinct populations, such as the French-Canadian (FC) population, have increased IA prevalence. In our study, we used exome sequencing to prioritize risk variants in a discovery cohort of six FC families affected by IA, and the analysis revealed an increased variation burden for ring finger protein 213 (RNF213). We resequenced RNF213 in a larger FC validation cohort, and association tests on further identified variants supported our findings (SKAT-O, p = 0.006). RNF213 belongs to the AAA+ protein family, and two variants (p.Arg2438Cys and p.Ala2826Thr) unique to affected FC individuals were found to have increased ATPase activity, which could lead to increased risk of IA by elevating angiogenic activities. Common SNPs in RNF213 were also extracted from the NeuroX SNP-chip genotype data, comprising 257 FC IA-affected and 1,988 control individuals. We discovered that the non-ancestral allele of rs6565666 was significantly associated with the affected individuals (p = 0.03), and it appeared as though the frequency of the risk allele had changed through genetic drift. Although RNF213 is a risk factor for moyamoya disease in East Asians, we demonstrated that it might also be a risk factor for IA in the FC population. It therefore appears that the function of RNF213 can be differently altered to predispose distinct populations to dissimilar neurovascular conditions, highlighting the importance of a population's background in genetic studies of heterogeneous disease.
Copyright © 2016. Published by Elsevier Inc.