Genetic basis of hypercholesterolemia in adults

Seyedmohammad Saadatagah, Merin Jose, Ozan Dikilitas, Lubna Alhabi, Alexandra A. Miller, Xiao Fan, Janet E. Olson, David C. Kochan, Maya Safarova, Iftikhar J. Kullo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated monogenic and polygenic causes of hypercholesterolemia in a population-based cohort, excluding secondary hypercholesterolemia, and using an established framework to identify pathogenic variants. We studied 1682 individuals (50.2 ± 8.6 years, 41.3% males) from southeast Minnesota with primary hypercholesterolemia (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) ≥155 mg/dl in the absence of identifiable secondary causes). Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) phenotype was defined as a Dutch Lipid Clinic Network (DLCN) score ≥6. Participants underwent sequencing of LDLR, APOB, and PCSK9, and genotyping of 12 LDL-C-associated single-nucleotide variants to construct a polygenic score (PGS) for LDL-C. The presence of a pathogenic/likely pathogenic variant was considered monogenic etiology and a PGS ≥90th percentile was considered polygenic etiology. The mean LDL-C level was 187.3 ± 32.3 mg/dl and phenotypic FH was present in 8.4% of the cohort. An identifiable genetic etiology was present in 17.1% individuals (monogenic in 1.5% and polygenic in 15.6%). Phenotypic and genetic FH showed poor overlap. Only 26% of those who met the clinical criteria of FH had an identifiable genetic etiology and of those with an identifiable genetic etiology only 12.9% met clinical criteria for FH. Genetic factors explained 7.4% of the variance in LDL-C. In conclusion, in adults with primary hypercholesterolemia, 17.1% had an identifiable genetic etiology and the overlap between phenotypic and genetic FH was modest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number28
Journalnpj Genomic Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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