Genetic variants associated with measures of atherosclerosis are reported this week in Nature Genetics. Atherosclerosis — a thickening of the artery wall typically caused by accumulation of cholesterol — often precedes coronary heart disease and stroke.
Measures of subclinical of atherosclerosis, including thickening of the carotid artery wall (cIMT) and deposits of large irregular arterial wall plaque, have been shown to be predictive of cardiovascular disease risk. Christopher O’Donnell and colleagues report meta-analyses of nine population-based genome-wide association studies, including 31,211 individuals, for cIMT and irregular carotid plaque. They replicate their findings in an additional 11,273 individuals. The team identify three genomic loci association with cIMT and two loci associated with carotid plaque. Variants at two of these regions were also associated with coronary artery disease.
They suggest that pathways involved in cell signaling, lipid metabolism and blood pressure homeostasis may influence development of subclinical atherosclerosis.