Polygenic determinants in extremes of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol

J Lipid Res. 2017 Nov;58(11):2162-2170. doi: 10.1194/jlr.M079822. Epub 2017 Sep 4.


HDL cholesterol (HDL-C) remains a superior biochemical predictor of CVD risk, but its genetic basis is incompletely defined. In patients with extreme HDL-C concentrations, we concurrently evaluated the contributions of multiple large- and small-effect genetic variants. In a discovery cohort of 255 unrelated lipid clinic patients with extreme HDL-C levels, we used a targeted next-generation sequencing panel to evaluate rare variants in known HDL metabolism genes, simultaneously with common variants bundled into a polygenic trait score. Two additional cohorts were used for validation and included 1,746 individuals from the Montréal Heart Institute Biobank and 1,048 individuals from the University of Pennsylvania. Findings were consistent between cohorts: we found rare heterozygous large-effect variants in 18.7% and 10.9% of low- and high-HDL-C patients, respectively. We also found common variant accumulation, indicated by extreme polygenic trait scores, in an additional 12.8% and 19.3% of overall cases of low- and high-HDL-C extremes, respectively. Thus, the genetic basis of extreme HDL-C concentrations encountered clinically is frequently polygenic, with contributions from both rare large-effect and common small-effect variants. Multiple types of genetic variants should be considered as contributing factors in patients with extreme dyslipidemia.

Keywords: common variants; complex trait; dyslipidemias; genes in lipid dysfunction; genetics; genomics; next-generation sequencing; polygenic risk score; rare variants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood*
  • Cholesterol, HDL / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genotype*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Cholesterol, HDL

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