The clinical implications of a polygenic risk score (PRS) for LDL-C (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) are not well understood, both within the general population and individuals with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH).
We developed the LDL-C PRS using Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator regression in 377 286 White British participants from UK Biobank and tested its association with LDL-C according to FH variant carrier status in another 41 748 whole-exome sequenced individuals. Next, we tested for an enrichment of FH variant carriers among individuals with severe hypercholesterolemia and low LDL-C PRS. Last, we contrasted the effect of the LDL-C PRS, measured LDL-C and FH variant carrier status on risk of ischemic heart disease among 3010 cases and 38 738 controls.
Among the 41 748 whole-exome sequenced White British individuals, 1-SD increase in the LDL-C PRS was associated with elevated LDL-C among both FH variant carriers (0.34 [95% CI, 0.22–0.47] mmol/L) and noncarriers (0.42 [95% CI, 0.42–0.43] mmol/L). Among individuals with severe hypercholesterolemia, FH variant carriers were enriched in those with a low LDL-C PRS (odds ratio, 2.20 [95% CI, 1.66–2.71] per SD). Each SD increase in the LDL-C PRS was associated with risk of ischemic heart disease to the comparable magnitude as measured LDL-C (odds ratio, 1.24 [95% CI, 1.20–1.29] and odds ratio, 1.15 [95% CI, 1.09–1.23], respectively). The LDL-C PRS was not strongly associated with other traditional ischemic heart disease risk factors.
An LDL-C PRS could be used to identify individuals with a higher probability of harboring FH variants. The association between ischemic heart disease and the LDL-C PRS was comparable to measured LDL-C, likely because the PRS reflects lifetime exposure to LDL-C levels.