BACKGROUND - Plasma lipid levels are highly heritable traits, but known genetic loci can only explain a small portion of their heritability.
METHODS AND RESULTS - In this study, we analyzed the role of parental levels of total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and triglycerides (TGs) in explaining the values of the corresponding traits in adult offspring. We also evaluated the contribution of nongenetic factors that influence lipid traits (age, body mass index, smoking, medications, and menopause) alone and in combination with variability at the genetic loci known to associate with TC, LDL-C, HDL-C, and TG levels. We performed comparisons among different sex-specific regression models in 416 families from the Framingham Heart Study and 304 from the SardiNIA cohort. Models including parental lipid levels explain significantly more of the trait variation than models without these measures, explaining up to ≈39% of the total trait variation. Of this variation, the parent-of-origin effect explains as much as ≈15% and it does so in a sex-specific way. This observation is not owing to shared environment, given that spouse-pair correlations were negligible (<1.5% explained variation in all cases) and is distinct from previous genetic and acquired factors that are known to influence serum lipid levels.
CONCLUSIONS - These findings support the concept that unknown genetic and epigenetic contributors are responsible for most of the heritable component of the plasma lipid phenotype, and that, at present, the clinical utility of knowing age-matched parental lipid levels in assessing risk of dyslipidemia supersedes individual locus effects. Our results support the clinical utility of knowing parental lipid levels in assessing future risk of dyslipidemia.
© 2015 The Authors. Published on behalf of the American Heart Association, Inc., by Wiley Blackwell.