Fine-mapping of retinal vascular complexity loci identifies Notch regulation as a shared mechanism with myocardial infarction outcomes

Ana Villaplana-Velasco, Marie Pigeyre, Justin Engelmann, Konrad Rawlik, Oriol Canela-Xandri, Claire Tochel, Frida Lona-Durazo, Muthu Rama Krishnan Mookiah, Alex Doney, Esteban J. Parra, Emanuele Trucco, Tom MacGillivray, Kristiina Rannikmae, Albert Tenesa, Erola Pairo-Castineira, Miguel O. Bernabeu (Lead / Corresponding author)

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There is increasing evidence that the complexity of the retinal vasculature measured as fractal dimension, Df, might offer earlier insights into the progression of coronary artery disease (CAD) before traditional biomarkers can be detected. This association could be partly explained by a common genetic basis; however, the genetic component of Df is poorly understood. We present a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of 38,000 individuals with white British ancestry from the UK Biobank aimed to comprehensively study the genetic component of Df and analyse its relationship with CAD. We replicated 5 Df loci and found 4 additional loci with suggestive significance (P < 1e-05) to contribute to Df variation, which previously were reported in retinal tortuosity and complexity, hypertension, and CAD studies. Significant negative genetic correlation estimates support the inverse relationship between Df and CAD, and between Df and myocardial infarction (MI), one of CAD's fatal outcomes. Fine-mapping of Df loci revealed Notch signalling regulatory variants supporting a shared mechanism with MI outcomes. We developed a predictive model for MI incident cases, recorded over a 10-year period following clinical and ophthalmic evaluation, combining clinical information, Df, and a CAD polygenic risk score. Internal cross-validation demonstrated a considerable improvement in the area under the curve (AUC) of our predictive model (AUC = 0.770 ± 0.001) when comparing with an established risk model, SCORE, (AUC = 0.741 ± 0.002) and extensions thereof leveraging the PRS (AUC = 0.728 ± 0.001). This evidences that Df provides risk information beyond demographic, lifestyle, and genetic risk factors. Our findings shed new light on the genetic basis of Df, unveiling a common control with MI, and highlighting the benefits of its application in individualised MI risk prediction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number523
Number of pages13
JournalCommunications Biology
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2023


  • Humans
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Myocardial Infarction/genetics
  • Coronary Artery Disease/genetics
  • Risk Factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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