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Perturbation of lipid homoeostasis is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading cause of death worldwide. We aimed to identify genetic variants affecting lipid levels, and thereby risk of CVD, in Greenlanders. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of six blood lipids, triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol, as well as apolipoproteins A1 and B, were performed in up to 4473 Greenlanders. For genome-wide significant variants, we also tested for associations with additional traits, including CVD events. We identified 11 genome-wide significant loci associated with lipid traits. Most of these loci were already known in Europeans, however, we found a potential causal variant near PCSK9 (rs12117661), which was independent of the known PCSK9 loss-of-function variant (rs11491147). rs12117661 was associated with lower LDL-cholesterol (βSD(SE) = -0.22 (0.03), p = 6.5 × 10-12) and total cholesterol (-0.17 (0.03), p = 1.1 × 10-8) in the Greenlandic study population. Similar associations were observed in Europeans from the UK Biobank, where the variant was also associated with a lower risk of CVD outcomes. Moreover, rs12117661 was a top eQTL for PCSK9 across tissues in European data from the GTEx portal, and was located in a predicted regulatory element, supporting a possible causal impact on PCSK9 expression. Combined, the 11 GWAS signals explained up to 16.3% of the variance of the lipid traits. This suggests that the genetic architecture of lipid levels in Greenlanders is different from Europeans, with fewer variants explaining the variance.

Original publication




Journal article


European journal of human genetics : EJHG

Publication Date



Clinical Research, Copenhagen University Hospital-Steno Diabetes Center Copenhagen, Herlev, Denmark.