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Alternate approach to stroke phenotyping identifies a genetic risk locus for small vessel stroke

By Joanna von Berg, Sander W. van der Laan, Patrick F. McArdle, Rainer Malik, Steven J. Kittner, Braxton D Mitchell, Bradford B. Worrall, Jeroen de Ridder, Sara L. Pulit

Posted 29 Jul 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/718221 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41431-020-0580-5)

Stroke causes approximately 1 in every 20 deaths in the United States. Most strokes are ischemic, caused by a blockage of blood flow to the brain. While neurologists agree on the delineation of ischemic stroke (IS) into the three most common subtypes (cardioembolic stroke (CES), large artery stroke (LAS), and small vessel stroke (SVS)), several different subtyping systems exist. The two most commonly-used clinical subtyping systems are TOAST (Trial of Org 10172 in Acute Stroke Treatment) and CCS (Causative Classification System for Stroke), but agreement between these two systems is only moderate. Here, we have compared two approaches to combining the existing subtyping systems for a phenotype suited for a genome-wide association study (GWAS). We used the NINDS Stroke Genetics Network dataset (SiGN, 13,390 cases and 28,026 controls), which includes cases with both CCS and TOAST subtypes. We defined two new phenotypes: 1) the intersect, for which an individual must be assigned the same subtype by CCS and TOAST; and 2) the union, for which an individual must be assigned a subtype by either CCS or TOAST. The union yields the largest sample size while the intersect may yield a phenotype with less potential misclassification. We performed GWAS for all subtypes, using the original subtyping systems, the intersect, and the union as phenotypes. In each subtype, heritability was higher for the intersect phenotype compared to the union, CCS (alone), and TOAST (alone) phenotypes. We observed stronger effects at known IS variants with the intersect compared to the other phenotype definitions. In GWAS of the intersect, we identify rs10029218 as an associated variant with small vessel stroke. We conclude that in the absence of a golden standard for phenotyping, taking this alternate approach yields more power to detect genetic associations in ischemic stroke.

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