Introduction: The MRI-Genetics Interface Exploration (MRI-GENIE) study is the first international collaboration that aims to facilitate genetic discoveries in clinical cohorts of patients with acute ischemic stroke (AIS). We have amassed the largest-to-date collection of AIS cases with brain MRI scans and genome-wide genotyping to test the role of genetic susceptibility in MRI-based cerebrovascular traits.
Objective/Hypothesis: To elucidate the genetic architecture of white matter hyperintensity (WMH) burden in AIS patients.
Methods: Using a novel automated algorithm, we extracted WMH volume (WMHv) from clinical MRI scans of 2704 AIS patients (age 63.1 ± 14.7 years, 60.6% male) of European ancestry. Quality control (QC) measures were undertaken per subject and per SNP, excluding subjects with non-European ancestry and poor genotyping, as well as SNPs deviating from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and high levels of missingness. Imputation to the Haplotype Reference Consortium (HRC version r1.1) was conducted for 1712 remaining subjects with 2.8 million SNPs on the Michigan Imputation Server. After exclusion of poorly imputed SNPs (R2<0.5) and SNPs with minor allele frequency < 1%, 7.7 million SNPs remained for further analysis. Genome-wide association testing of natural log-transformed WMHv on the allelic dosage per SNP was adjusted for age, sex and principal components 1-10.
Results: Genome-wide association testing has identified a novel locus on chromosome 2 (T allele at rs72856504) near the LDL Receptor related Protein 1B gene (LRP1B) that was significantly associated with WMHv burden in AIS (β=0.54, SE=0.098, p=3.65*10-8).
Conclusion: We have identified a novel locus (T allele rs72856504) on chromosome 2 near the LRP1B gene, which is specific for WMH in AIS and has not been previosuly described in stroke-free WMH cohorts. A replication effort involving additional independent cohorts of AIS patients with brain MRI and genome-wide genotyping is ongoing.