Molecular Characterization of Familial Hypercholesterolemia in a North American Cohort

J Endocr Soc. 2019 Nov 29;4(1):bvz015. doi: 10.1210/jendso/bvz015. eCollection 2020 Jan 1.


Background: Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) confers a very high risk of premature cardiovascular disease and is commonly caused by mutations in low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR), apolipoprotein B (APOB), or proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) and very rarely in LDLR adaptor protein 1 (LDLRAP1) genes.

Objective: To determine the prevalence of pathogenic mutations in the LDLR, APOB, and PCSK9 in a cohort of subjects who met Simon Broome criteria for FH and compare the clinical characteristics of mutation-positive and mutation-negative subjects.

Methods: Ninety-three men and 107 women aged 19 to 80 years from lipid clinics in the United States and Canada participated. Demographic and historical data were collected, physical examination performed, and serum lipids/lipoproteins analyzed. Targeted sequencing analyses of LDLR and PCSK9 coding regions and exon 26 of APOB were performed followed by detection of LDLR deletions and duplications.

Results: Disease-causing LDLR and APOB variants were identified in 114 and 6 subjects, respectively. Of the 58 LDLR variants, 8 were novel mutations. Compared with mutation-positive subjects, mutation-negative subjects were older (mean 49 years vs 57 years, respectively) and had a higher proportion of African Americans (1% vs 12.5%), higher prevalence of hypertension (21% vs 46%), and higher serum triglycerides (median 86 mg/dL vs 122 mg/dL) levels.

Conclusions: LDLR mutations were the most common cause of heterozygous FH in this North American cohort. A strikingly high proportion of FH subjects (40%) lacked mutations in known culprit genes. Identification of underlying genetic and environmental factors in mutation-negative patients is important to further our understanding of the metabolic basis of FH and other forms of severe hypercholesterolemia.

Keywords: LDL receptor; PCSK9; apolioprotein B; familial hypercholesterolemia; triglycerides.