Integrative analysis of the plasma proteome and polygenic risk of cardiometabolic diseases

Nat Metab. 2021 Nov;3(11):1476-1483. doi: 10.1038/s42255-021-00478-5. Epub 2021 Nov 8.


Cardiometabolic diseases are frequently polygenic in architecture, comprising a large number of risk alleles with small effects spread across the genome1-3. Polygenic scores (PGS) aggregate these into a metric representing an individual's genetic predisposition to disease. PGS have shown promise for early risk prediction4-7 and there is an open question as to whether PGS can also be used to understand disease biology8. Here, we demonstrate that cardiometabolic disease PGS can be used to elucidate the proteins underlying disease pathogenesis. In 3,087 healthy individuals, we found that PGS for coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease and ischaemic stroke are associated with the levels of 49 plasma proteins. Associations were polygenic in architecture, largely independent of cis and trans protein quantitative trait loci and present for proteins without quantitative trait loci. Over a follow-up of 7.7 years, 28 of these proteins associated with future myocardial infarction or type 2 diabetes events, 16 of which were mediators between polygenic risk and incident disease. Twelve of these were druggable targets with therapeutic potential. Our results demonstrate the potential for PGS to uncover causal disease biology and targets with therapeutic potential, including those that may be missed by approaches utilizing information at a single locus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Proteins*
  • Disease Management
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Heart Diseases / diagnosis
  • Heart Diseases / epidemiology
  • Heart Diseases / etiology*
  • Heart Diseases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Diseases / diagnosis
  • Metabolic Diseases / epidemiology
  • Metabolic Diseases / etiology*
  • Metabolic Diseases / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multifactorial Inheritance*
  • Proteome*
  • Public Health Surveillance
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Proteins
  • Proteome