DOI: 10.1161/atvbaha.123.319341 ISSN:

Subtyping Severe Hypercholesterolemia by Genetic Determinant to Stratify Risk of Coronary Artery Disease

Alexander S.F. Berry, Laney K. Jones, Eric J. Sijbrands, Samuel S. Gidding, Matthew T. Oetjens
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


Severe hypercholesterolemia, defined as LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol (LDL-C) measurement ≥190 mg/dL, is associated with increased risk for coronary artery disease (CAD). Causes of severe hypercholesterolemia include monogenic familial hypercholesterolemia, polygenic hypercholesterolemia, elevated lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)] hypercholesteremia, polygenic hypercholesterolemia with elevated Lp(a) (two-hit), or nongenetic hypercholesterolemia. The added value of using a genetics approach to stratifying risk of incident CAD among those with severe hypercholesterolemia versus using LDL-C levels alone for risk stratification is not known.


To determine whether risk stratification by genetic cause provided better 10-year incident CAD risk stratification than LDL-C level, a retrospective cohort study comparing incident CAD risk among severe hypercholesterolemia subtypes (genetic and nongenetic causes) was performed among 134 185 UK Biobank participants. Analyses were limited to unrelated, White British or Irish participants with available exome sequencing data. Participants with cardiovascular disease at baseline were excluded from analyses of incident CAD.


Of 134 185 individuals, 70 637 (52.6%) were female, and the mean (SD) age was 56.7 (8.0) years. Of the cohort, 9.0% met severe hypercholesterolemia criteria. Participants with LDL-C between 210 and 229 mg/dL and LDL-C ≥230 mg/dL showed modest increases in incident CAD risk relative to those with LDL-C between 190 and 209 mg/dL (210–229 mg/dL: hazard ratio [HR], 1.3 [95% CI, 1.1–1.6]; ≥230 mg/dL: HR, 1.3 [95% CI, 1.0–1.7]). In contrast, when risk was stratified by genetic subtype, monogenic familial hypercholesterolemia, elevated Lp(a), and two-hit hypercholesterolemia subtypes had increased rates of incident CAD relative to the nongenetic hypercholesterolemia subtype (monogenic familial hypercholesterolemia: HR, 2.3 [95% CI, 1.4–4.0]; elevated Lp(a): HR, 1.6 [95% CI, 1.2–2.0]; two-hit: HR, 1.9 [95% CI, 1.4–2.6]), while polygenic hypercholesterolemia did not.


Genetics-based subtyping for monogenic familial hypercholesterolemia and Lp(a) in those with severe hypercholesterolemia provided better stratification of 10-year incident CAD risk than LDL-C-based stratification.

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