In a genome-wide association study of intracranial aneurysms (IA), enrichment was found between genes associated with IA and genes encoding targets of effective anti-epileptic drugs. Our aim was to assess if this pleiotropy is driven by shared disease mechanisms that could potentially highlight a treatment strategy for IA.
Using 2-sample inverse-variance weighted Mendelian randomization and genetic colocalization analyses we assessed: (1) if epilepsy liability in general affects IA risk, and (2) whether changes in gene- and protein-expression levels of anti-epileptic drug targets in blood and arterial tissue may causally affect IA risk.
We found no overall effect of epilepsy liability on IA. Expression of 21 genes and 13 proteins corresponding to anti-epileptic drug targets supported a causal effect (
P<0.05) on IA risk. Of those genes and proteins, genetic variants affecting CNNM2levels showed strong evidence for colocalization with IA risk (posterior probability>70%). Higher CNNM2levels in arterial tissue were associated with increased IA risk (odds ratio, 3.02; [95% CI, 2.32–3.94]; P=3.39×10 − 16 ). CNNM2 expression was best proxied by rs11191580. The magnitude of the effect of this variant was greater than would be expected if systemic blood pressure was the sole IA-causing mechanism in this locus. Conclusions: CNNM2is a driver of the pleiotropy between IA and anti-epileptic drug targets. Administration of the anti-epileptic drugs phenytoin, valproic acid, or carbamazepine may be expected to decrease CNNM2levels and therefore subsequently decrease IA risk. CNNM2is therefore an important target to investigate further for its role in the pathogenesis of IA.