Interindividual differences in plasma low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels reflect both environmental variation and genetic polymorphism, but the specific genes involved and their relative contributions to the variance in LDL-C are not known. In this study we investigated the relationship between plasma LDL-C concentrations and three genes with pivotal roles in LDL metabolism: the low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR), apolipoprotein B (APOB), and cholesterol 7alpha-hydroxylase (CYP7). Analysis of 150 nuclear families indicated statistically significant linkage between plasma LDL-C concentrations and CYP7, but not LDLR or APOB. Further sibling pair analyses using individuals with high plasma LDL-C concentrations as probands indicated that the CYP7 locus was linked to high plasma LDL-C, but not to low plasma LDL-C concentrations. This finding was replicated in an independent sample. DNA sequencing revealed two linked polymorphisms in the 5' flanking region of CYP7. The allele defined by these polymorphisms was associated with increased plasma LDL-C concentrations, both in sibling pairs and in unrelated individuals. Taken together, these findings indicate that polymorphism in CYP7 contributes to heritable variation in plasma LDL-C concentrations. Common polymorphisms in LDLR and APOB account for little of the heritable variation in plasma LDL-C concentrations in the general population.
J Wang, D J Freeman, S M Grundy, D M Levine, R Guerra, J C Cohen