The purpose of this study is to identify microRNA (miRNA) related polymorphism, including single nucleotide variants (SNVs) in mature miRNA-encoding sequences or in miRNA-target sites, and their association with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in African-American population. To achieve our objective, we examined 1900 African-Americans from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study using SNVs identified from whole-genome sequencing data. A total of 971 SNVs found in 726 different mature miRNA-encoding sequences and 16,057 SNVs found in the three prime untranslated region (3′UTR) of 3647 protein-coding genes were identified and interrogated their associations with 17 CVD risk factors. Using single-variant-based approach, we found 5 SNVs in miRNA-encoding sequences to be associated with serum Lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)], high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or triglycerides, and 2 SNVs in miRNA-target sites to be associated with Lp(a) and HDL, all with false discovery rates of 5%. Using a gene-based approach, we identified 3 pairs of associations between gene NSD1 and platelet count, gene HSPA4L and cardiac troponin T, and gene AHSA2 and magnesium. We successfully validated the association between a variant specific to African-American population, NR_039880.1:n.18A>C, in mature hsa-miR-4727-5p encoding sequence and serum HDL level in an independent sample of 2135 African-Americans. Our study provided candidate miRNAs and their targets for further investigation of their potential contribution to ethnic disparities in CVD risk factors.
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