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N Engl J Med. 2019 Mar 14;380(11):1033-1042. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1806747.

Mendelian Randomization Study of ACLY and Cardiovascular Disease.

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From the Centre for Naturally Randomized Trials (B.A.F., T.B.F.), Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit, Department of Public Health and Primary Care (B.A.F., S.B., C.O.-W., A.M.W., A.S.B., E.D.A., J.D.), Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit (S.B.), and NIHR Blood and Transplant Research Unit in Donor Health and Genomics (A.S.B., E.D.A., J.D.), University of Cambridge, Cambridge, and Imperial Centre for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Department of Primary Care and Public Health, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London (K.K.R.) - all in the United Kingdom; the Department of Pharmacologic and Biomolecular Sciences, University of Milan and Multimedica IRCCS, Milan (A.L.C.); Michigan State University, East Lansing (D.R.N.); the Department of Vascular Medicine, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam (J.J.P.K.); and Monash University, Clayton, VIC, Australia (S.J.N.).



ATP citrate lyase is an enzyme in the cholesterol-biosynthesis pathway upstream of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR), the target of statins. Whether the genetic inhibition of ATP citrate lyase is associated with deleterious outcomes and whether it has the same effect, per unit decrease in the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level, as the genetic inhibition of HMGCR is unclear.


We constructed genetic scores composed of independently inherited variants in the genes encoding ATP citrate lyase (ACLY) and HMGCR to create instruments that mimic the effect of ATP citrate lyase inhibitors and HMGCR inhibitors (statins), respectively. We then compared the associations of these genetic scores with plasma lipid levels, lipoprotein levels, and the risk of cardiovascular events and cancer.


A total of 654,783 participants, including 105,429 participants who had major cardiovascular events, were included in the study. The ACLY and HMGCR scores were associated with similar patterns of changes in plasma lipid and lipoprotein levels and with similar effects on the risk of cardiovascular events per decrease of 10 mg per deciliter in the LDL cholesterol level: odds ratio for cardiovascular events, 0.823 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.78 to 0.87; P = 4.0×10-14) for the ACLY score and 0.836 (95% CI, 0.81 to 0.87; P = 3.9×10-19) for the HMGCR score. Neither lifelong genetic inhibition of ATP citrate lyase nor lifelong genetic inhibition of HMGCR was associated with an increased risk of cancer.


Genetic variants that mimic the effect of ATP citrate lyase inhibitors and statins appeared to lower plasma LDL cholesterol levels by the same mechanism of action and were associated with similar effects on the risk of cardiovascular disease per unit decrease in the LDL cholesterol level. (Funded by Esperion Therapeutics and others.).

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