Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Risk loci for coronary artery calcification replicated at 9p21 and 6q24 in the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study

Sonali Pechlivanis1*, Thomas W Mühleisen23, Stefan Möhlenkamp4, Dirk Schadendorf5, Raimund Erbel4, Karl-Heinz Jöckel1, Per Hoffmann23, Markus M Nöthen23, André Scherag1, Susanne Moebus1 and for the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study Investigative Group

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Medical Informatics, Biometry and Epidemiology, University Hospital Essen, Essen, Germany

2 Institute of Human Genetics, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany

3 Department of Genomics, Life & Brain GmbH, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany

4 Clinic of Cardiology, West-German Heart Centre, University Hospital Essen, Essen, Germany

5 Department of Dermatology, Venerology and Allergology, University Hospital Essen, Essen, Germany

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BMC Medical Genetics 2013, 14:23  doi:10.1186/1471-2350-14-23

Published: 8 February 2013



Atherosclerosis is the primary cause of coronary heart disease (CHD), preceding the onset of cardiovascular disease by decades in most cases. Here we examine the association between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) integrated on Metabochip and coronary artery calcification (CAC), a valid risk factor for CHD, in an unselected, population-based German cohort.


The Metabochip is a custom iSELECT array containing >195,000 SNPs that was designed to support large-scale follow-up of putative associations for metabolic and cardiovascular-associated traits. We used generalized linear regression models to explore the impact of Metabochip SNPs on quantitative CAC in 4,329 participants.


The 9p21 variant, rs1537373, was most strongly associated (Beta = 0.30; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.21-0.39; p = 4.05x10-11) with quantitative CAC. The second strongest association with CAC was with rs9349379 in the phosphatase and actin regulator 1 gene, PHACTR1, (Beta = 0.30; 95% CI = 0.22-0.40; p = 4.67x10-11). Both SNPs remained nominally significant in dichotomized analyses for the presence of any CAC (odds ratiors1537373 (OR) = 1.19; 95% CI = 1.07-1.31; p = 0.001 and ORrs9349379 = 1.26; 95% CI = 1.14-1.40); p = 1.5x10-5). Fine mapping of the 9p21 and PHACTR1 gene region revealed several other SNPs that were strongly associated with CAC.


We demonstrate that SNPs near 9p21 and in PHACTR1 that have previously been shown to be associated with CHD are strongly associated with CAC in the Heinz Nixdorf Recall Study cohort. Our findings suggest that the 9p21 and 6q24 loci might be involved in cardiac outcome via promoting development of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries.

Coronary heart disease; Coronary artery calcification; Cohort study; Polymorphism; Metabochip