Polygenic influences on dyslipidemias

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Rare large-effect genetic variants underlie monogenic dyslipidemias, whereas common small-effect genetic variants – single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) – have modest influences on lipid traits. Over the past decade, these small-effect SNPs have been shown to cumulatively exert consistent effects on lipid phenotypes under a polygenic framework, which is the focus of this review.

Recent findings

Several groups have reported polygenic risk scores assembled from lipid-associated SNPs, and have applied them to their respective phenotypes. For lipid traits in the normal population distribution, polygenic effects quantified by a score that integrates several common polymorphisms account for about 20–30% of genetic variation. Among individuals at the extremes of the distribution, that is, those with clinical dyslipidemia, the polygenic component includes both rare variants with large effects and common polymorphisms: depending on the trait, 20–50% of susceptibility can be accounted for by this assortment of genetic variants.

Summary

Accounting for polygenic effects increases the numbers of dyslipidemic individuals who can be explained genetically, but a substantial proportion of susceptibility remains unexplained. Whether documenting the polygenic basis of dyslipidemia will affect outcomes in clinical trials or prospective observational studies remains to be determined.

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