PloS one 2016 12 1411(12) e0167676 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0167676
The Low-Density Lipoprotein Receptor (LDLR) SNP rs6511720 (G>T), located in intron-1 of the gene, has been identified in genome-wide association studies (GWAS) as being associated with lower plasma levels of LDL-C and a lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Whether or not rs6511720 is itself functional or a marker for a functional variant elsewhere in the gene is not known.
The association of LDLR SNP rs6511720 with incidence of CHD and levels of LDL-C was determined by reference to CARDIoGRAM, C4D and Global lipids genetics consortium (GLGC) data. SNP annotation databases were used to identify possible SNP function and prioritization. Luciferase reporter assays in the liver cell line Huh7 were used to measure the effect of variant genotype on gene expression. Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assays (EMSAs) were used to identify the Transcription Factors (TFs) involved in gene expression regulation.
The phenotype-genotype analysis showed that the rs6511720 minor allele is associated with lower level of LDL-C [beta = -0.2209, p = 3.85 x10-262], and lower risk of CHD [log (OR) = 0.1155, p = 1.04 x10-7]. Rs6511720 is in complete linkage. Rs6511720 is in complete linkage disequilibrium (LD) with three intron-1 SNPs (rs141787760, rs60173709, rs57217136). Luciferase reporter assays in Huh7 cells showed that the rare alleles of both rs6511720 and rs57217136 caused a significant increase in LDLR expression compared to the common alleles (+29% and +24%, respectively). Multiplex Competitor-EMSAs (MC-EMSA) identified that the transcription factor serum response element (SRE) binds to rs6511720, while retinoic acid receptor (RAR) and signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1) bind to rs57217136.
Both LDLR rs6511720 and rs57217136 are functional variants. Both these minor alleles create enhancer-binding protein sites for TFs and may contribute to increased LDLR expression, which is consequently associated with reduced LDL-C levels and 12% lower CHD risk.