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PLoS Med. 2007 Apr;4(4):e131.

Genetics of ischaemic stroke among persons of non-European descent: a meta-analysis of eight genes involving approximately 32,500 individuals.

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Imperial College Cerebrovascular Research Unit (ICCRU), Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Hammersmith Hospitals and Imperial College, London.



Ischaemic stroke in persons of European descent has a genetic basis, but whether the stroke-susceptibility alleles, the strength of any association, and the extent of their attributable risks are the same in persons of non-European descent remains unanswered. Whether ethnicity itself has a relevant or substantial contribution on those effect estimates is controversial. Comparative analyses between the ethnic groups may allow general conclusions to be drawn about polygenic disorders.


We performed a literature-based systematic review of genetic association studies in stroke in persons of non-European descent. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were determined for each gene-disease association using fixed and random effect models. We further performed a comparative genetic analysis across the different ethnic groups (including persons of European descent derived from our previous meta-analysis) to determine if genetic risks varied by ethnicity. Following a review of 500 manuscripts, eight candidate gene variants were analysed among 32,431 individuals (12,883 cases and 19,548 controls), comprising mainly Chinese, Japanese, and Korean individuals. Of the eight candidate genes studied, three were associated with ischaemic stroke: the angiotensin I converting enzyme (ACE) insertion/deletion (I/D) polymorphism with a mean OR of 1.90 (95% CI 1.23-2.93) in the Chinese and 1.74 (95% CI 0.88-3.42) in the Japanese; the summary OR for the C677T variant of 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) was 1.18 (95% CI 0.90-1.56) in Chinese and 1.34 (95% CI 0.87-2.06) in Koreans; and the pooled OR for the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene was 2.18 (95% CI 1.52-3.13) in Chinese and 1.51 (95% CI 0.93-2.45) in Japanese. Comparing the commonly investigated stroke genes among the Asian groups against studies in persons of European descent, we found an absence of any substantial qualitative or quantitative interaction for ORs by ethnicity. However, the number of individuals recruited per study in the studies of persons of non-European descent was significantly smaller compared to studies of persons of European descent, despite a similar number of studies conducted per gene.


These data suggest that genetic associations studied to date for ischaemic stroke among persons of non-European descent are similar to those for persons of European descent. Claims of differences in genetic effects among different ethnic populations for complex disorders such as stroke may be overstated. However, due to the limited number of gene variants evaluated, the relatively smaller number of individuals included in the meta-analyses of persons of non-European descent in stroke, and the possibility of publication bias, the existence of allele variants with differential effects by ethnicity cannot be excluded.

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