A polygenic risk score to help discriminate primary adrenal insufficiency of different etiologies

J Intern Med. 2023 Jul;294(1):96-109. doi: 10.1111/joim.13649. Epub 2023 May 21.


Background: Autoimmune Addison's disease (AAD) is the most common cause of primary adrenal insufficiency (PAI). Despite its exceptionally high heritability, tools to estimate disease susceptibility in individual patients are lacking. We hypothesized that polygenic risk score (PRS) for AAD could help investigate PAI pathogenesis in pediatric patients.

Methods: We here constructed and evaluated a PRS for AAD in 1223 seropositive cases and 4097 controls. To test its clinical utility, we reevaluated 18 pediatric patients, whose whole genome we also sequenced. We next explored the individual PRS in more than 120 seronegative patients with idiopathic PAI.

Results: The genetic susceptibility to AAD-quantified using PRS-was on average 1.5 standard deviations (SD) higher in patients compared with healthy controls (p < 2e - 16), and 1.2 SD higher in the young patients compared with the old (p = 3e - 4). Using the novel PRS, we searched for pediatric patients with strikingly low AAD susceptibility and identified cases of monogenic PAI, previously misdiagnosed as AAD. By stratifying seronegative adult patients by autoimmune comorbidities and disease duration we could delineate subgroups of PRS suggesting various disease etiologies.

Conclusions: The PRS performed well for case-control differentiation and susceptibility estimation in individual patients. Remarkably, a PRS for AAD holds promise as a means to detect disease etiologies other than autoimmunity.

Keywords: Addison's disease; age-at-onset; autoantibodies; complex inheritance; primary adrenal insufficiency; risk scores.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Addison Disease*
  • Adult
  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoimmunity
  • Child
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors


  • Autoantibodies