Genetic variation in proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) gene has been recently identified as an important determinant of plasma LDL-cholesterol and severity of coronary heart disease. We studied whether the PCSK9 gene is linked to the risk of ischemic stroke (IS) and with the development of intracranial atherosclerosis.
The pivotal E670G polymorphism, tagging an important haplotype of the PCSK9 gene, was genotyped in two independent studies. The Belgium Stroke Study included 237 middle aged (45–60) Belgian patients, with small-vessel occlusion (SVO) and large-vessel atherosclerosis stroke (LVA), and 326 gender and ethnicity matched controls (>60 yrs) without a history of stroke. In multivariate analysis the minor allele (G) carriers appeared as a significant predictor of LVA (OR = 3.52, 95% CI 1.25–9.85; p = 0.017). In a Finnish crossectional population based consecutive autopsy series of 604 males and females (mean age 62.5 years), G-allele carriers tended to have more severe allele copy number-dependent (p = 0.095) atherosclerosis in the circle of Willis and in its branches.
Our findings in this unique combination of clinical and autopsy data, provide evidence that PCSK9 gene associates with the risk of LVA stroke subtype, and suggest that the risk is mediated by the severity of intracranial atherosclerosis.