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Gene Sequencing Identifies Perturbation in Nitric Oxide Signaling as a Nonlipid Molecular Subtype of Coronary Artery Disease.



A key goal of precision medicine is to disaggregate common, complex diseases into discrete molecular subtypes. Rare coding variants in the low-density lipoprotein receptor gene (LDLR) are identified in 1% to 2% of coronary artery disease (CAD) patients, defining a molecular subtype with risk driven by hypercholesterolemia.


To search for additional subtypes, we compared the frequency of rare, predicted loss-of-function and damaging missense variants aggregated within a given gene in 41 081 CAD cases versus 217 115 controls.


Rare variants in LDLR were most strongly associated with CAD, present in 1% of cases and associated with 4.4-fold increased CAD risk. A second subtype was characterized by variants in endothelial nitric oxide synthase gene (NOS3), a key enzyme regulating vascular tone, endothelial function, and platelet aggregation. A rare predicted loss-of-function or damaging missense variants in NOS3 was present in 0.6% of cases and associated with 2.42-fold increased risk of CAD (95% CI, 1.80-3.26; P=5.50×10-9). These variants were associated with higher systolic blood pressure (+3.25 mm Hg; [95% CI, 1.86-4.65]; P=5.00×10-6) and increased risk of hypertension (adjusted odds ratio 1.31; [95% CI, 1.14-1.51]; P=2.00×10-4) but not circulating cholesterol concentrations, suggesting that, beyond lipid pathways, nitric oxide synthesis is a key nonlipid driver of CAD risk.


Beyond LDLR, we identified an additional nonlipid molecular subtype of CAD characterized by rare variants in the NOS3 gene.

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