Cholesterol not particle concentration mediates the atherogenic risk conferred by apolipoprotein B particles - A Mendelian randomization analysis

Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2022 Sep 20;zwac219. doi: 10.1093/eurjpc/zwac219. Online ahead of print.


Background and aims: The causal contribution of apolipoprotein B (apoB) particles to coronary artery disease (CAD) is established. We examined whether this atherogenic contribution is better reflected by non-high density lipoprotein cholesterol (non-HDL-C) or apoB particle concentration.

Method and results: We performed Mendelian randomization (MR) analysis using 235 variants as genetic instruments; testing the relationship between their effects on the exposures, non-HDL-C and apoB, and on the outcome CAD using weighted regression. Variant effect estimates on the exposures came from the UK Biobank (N = 376,336) and on the outcome from a meta-analysis of five CAD data-sets (187,451 cases and 793,315 controls). Subsequently, we carried out sensitivity and replication analyses.In univariate MR analysis both exposures associated with CAD (βnon-HDL-C = 0.40, P = 2.8 × 10-48 and βapoB = 0.38, P = 1.3 × 10-44). Adding effects on non-HDL-C into a model that already included those on apoB significantly improved the genetically predicted CAD effects (P = 3.9 × 10-5), while adding apoB into the model including non-HDL-C did not (P = 0.69). Thirty-five percent (82/235) of the variants used as genetic instruments had discordant effects on the exposures, associating with non-HDL-C/apoB ratio at P < 2.1 × 10-4 (0.05/235). Fifty-one variants associated at genome-wide significance.

Conclusion: Many sequence variants have discordant effects on non-HDL-C and apoB. These variants allowed us to show that the causal mechanism underlying the relationship between apolipoprotein B particles and CAD is more associated with non-HDL-C than apoB particle concentration.

Keywords: Apolipoprotein B; Mendelian randomization; coronary artery disease; non-HDL cholesterol.