Genetic associations between serum low LDL-cholesterol levels and variants in LDLR, APOB, PCSK9 and LDLRAP1 in African populations

PLoS One. 2020 Feb 21;15(2):e0229098. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0229098. eCollection 2020.


Non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), are increasing in African populations. High serum low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol) levels are a known risk factor for CVDs in European populations, but the link remains poorly understood among Africans. This study investigated the associations between serum LDL-cholesterol levels and selected variants in the low density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR), apolipoprotein B (APOB), proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) and low density lipoprotein receptor adaptor protein 1 (LDLRAP1) genes in some selected African populations. Nineteen SNPs were selected from publicly available African whole genome sequence data based on functional prediction and allele frequency. SNPs were genotyped in 1000 participants from the AWI-Gen, study selected from the extremes of LDL-cholesterol level distribution (500 with LDL-cholesterol>3.5 mmol/L and 500 with LDL-cholesterol<1.1 mmol/L). The minor alleles at five of the six associated SNPs were significantly associated (P<0.05) with lower LDL-cholesterol levels: LDLRAP1 rs12071264 (OR 0.56, 95% CI: 0.39-0.75, P = 2.73x10-4) and rs35910270 (OR 0.78, 95% CI: 0.64-0.94, P = 0.008); APOB rs6752026 (OR 0. 55, 95% CI: 0.41-0.72, P = 2.82x10-5); LDLR: rs72568855 (OR 0.47, 95% CI: 0.27-0.82, P = 0.008); and PCSK9 rs45613943 (OR = 0.72, 95% CI: 0.58-0.88, P = 0.001). The minor allele of the sixth variant was associated with higher LDL-cholesterol levels: APOB rs679899 (OR 1.41, 95% CI: 1.06-1.86, P = 0.016). A replication analysis in the Africa America Diabetes Mellitus (AADM) study found the PCSK9 variant to be significantly associated with low LDL-cholesterol levels (Beta = -0.10). Since Africans generally have lower LDL-cholesterol levels, these LDL-cholesterol associated variants may be involved in adaptation due to unique gene-environment interactions. In conclusion, using a limited number of potentially functional variants in four genes, we identified significant associations with lower LDL-cholesterol levels in sub-Saharan Africans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / genetics*
  • Alleles
  • Apolipoproteins B / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Proprotein Convertase 9 / genetics*
  • Receptors, LDL / genetics*


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Apolipoproteins B
  • LDLRAP1 protein, human
  • Receptors, LDL
  • Proprotein Convertase 9