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Cornea. 2013 May;32(5):696-701. doi: 10.1097/ICO.0b013e3182821c1c.

An association between the calpastatin (CAST) gene and keratoconus.

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Cornea Genetic Eye Institute, Los Angeles, CA, USA.



Keratoconus (KC) is a genetically heterogeneous corneal dystrophy. Previously, we performed 2 genome-wide linkage scans in a 4-generation autosomal dominant pedigree and repeatedly mapped a KC locus to a genomic region located on chromosome 5q overlapping the gene encoding the inhibitor of calpains, calpastatin (CAST). To test whether variants in CAST gene are involved in genetic susceptibility to KC, we performed genetic testing of polymorphic markers in CAST gene in family and case-control panels of patients with KC.


We genotyped single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) located in CAST gene in 262 patients in 40 white KC families and in a white case-control panel with 304 cases and 518 controls. Generalized estimating equation models accounting for familial correlations implemented in GWAF program were used for association testing in families. Logistic regression models implemented in PLINK were performed to test the associations in case-control samples.


Genetic testing of the first set of 7 SNPs in familial samples revealed 2 tentative nominally significant markers (rs4869307, P = 0.03; rs27654, P = 0.07). Additional genotyping of 12 tightly spaced SNPs identified CAST SNP rs4434401 to be associated with KC in both familial and case-control panels with P values of 0.005 and 0.05, respectively, and with combined meta P value of familial and case-control cohorts of 0.002 or after Bonferroni correction of 0.04.


Linkage analysis and genetic association support involvement of CAST gene in the genetic susceptibility to KC. In silico analysis of CAST expression suggests differential regulation of calpain/calpastatin system in cornea as a potential mechanism of functional defect.

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