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Open Access Research article

The 9p21 susceptibility locus for coronary artery disease and the severity of coronary atherosclerosis

Suet Nee Chen12, Christie M Ballantyne3, Antonio M Gotto4 and Ali J Marian1*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Cardiovascular Genetics, Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine, The University of Texas Health Science Center, and Texas Heart Institute, Houston, TX 77030, USA

2 Graduate Program in Cardiovascular Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA

3 Section of Atherosclerosis and Vascular Medicine, Department of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, and Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center, Houston TX, USA

4 Weil College of Medicine of Cornel University, New York, NY, USA

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BMC Cardiovascular Disorders 2009, 9:3  doi:10.1186/1471-2261-9-3

Published: 27 January 2009



Case-control Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) have identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at the 9p21 locus as risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD). The locus does not contain a clear candidate gene. Hence, the results of GWAS have raised an intense interest in delineating the basis for the observed association. We analyzed association of 4 SNPs at the 9p21 locus with the severity and progression of coronary atherosclerosis, as determined by serial quantitative coronary angiograms (QCA) in the well-characterized Lipoprotein Coronary Atherosclerosis Study (LCAS) population. The LCAS is a randomized placebo-control longitudinal follow-up study in patients with CAD conducted to test the effects of fluvastatin on progression or regression of coronary atherosclerosis.


Extensive plasma lipid levels were measured at the baseline and 2 1/2 years after randomization. Likewise serial QCA was performed at the baseline and upon completion of the study. We genotyped the population for 4 SNPs, previously identified as the susceptibility SNPs for CAD in GWAS, using fluorogenic 5' nuclease assays. We reconstructed the haplotypes using Phase 2, analyzed SNP and haplotype effects using the Thesias software as well as by the conventional statistical methods.


Only Caucasians were included since they comprised 90% of the study population (332/371 with available DNA sample). The 4 SNPs at the 9p21 locus were in tight linkage disequilibrium, leading to 3 common haplotypes in the LCAS population. We found no significant association between quantitative indices of severity of coronary atherosclerosis, such as minimal lumen diameter and number of coronary lesions or occlusions and the 9p21 SNPs and haplotypes. Likewise, there was no association between quantitative indices of progression of coronary atherosclerosis and the SNPs or haplotypes. Similarly, we found no significant SNP or haplotype effect on severity and progression of coronary atherosclerosis.


We conclude the 4 SNPs at the 9p21 locus analyzed in this study do not impart major effects on the severity or progression of coronary atherosclerosis. The effect size may be very modest or the observed association of the CAD with SNPs at the 9p21 locus in the case-control GWAS reflect involvement of vascular mechanisms not directly related to the severity or progression of coronary atherosclerosis.