Therapeutic interventions that lower LDL-cholesterol effectively reduce the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD). However, statins, the most widely prescribed LDL-cholesterol lowering drugs, increase diabetes risk. We used genome-wide association study (GWAS) data in the public domain to investigate the relationship of LDL-C and diabetes and identify loci encoding potential drug targets for LDL-cholesterol modification without causing dysglycemia. We obtained summary-level GWAS data for LDL-C from GLGC, glycemic traits from MAGIC, diabetes from DIAGRAM and CAD from CARDIoGRAMplusC4D consortia. Mendelian randomization analyses identified a one standard deviation (SD) increase in LDL-C caused an increased risk of CAD (odds ratio [OR] 1.63 (95 % confidence interval [CI] 1.55, 1.71), which was not influenced by removing SNPs associated with diabetes. LDL-C/CAD-associated SNPs showed consistent effect directions (binomial P = 6.85 × 10(-5)). Conversely, a 1-SD increase in LDL-C was causally protective of diabetes (OR 0.86; 95 % CI 0.81, 0.91), however LDL-cholesterol/diabetes-associated SNPs did not show consistent effect directions (binomial P = 0.15). HMGCR, our positive control, associated with LDL-C, CAD and a glycemic composite (derived from GWAS meta-analysis of four glycemic traits and diabetes). In contrast, PCSK9, APOB, LPA, CETP, PLG, NPC1L1 and ALDH2 were identified as "druggable" loci that alter LDL-C and risk of CAD without displaying associations with dysglycemia. In conclusion, LDL-C increases the risk of CAD and the relationship is independent of any association of LDL-C with diabetes. Loci that encode targets of emerging LDL-C lowering drugs do not associate with dysglycemia, and this provides provisional evidence that new LDL-C lowering drugs (such as PCSK9 inhibitors) may not influence risk of diabetes.

Original publication




Journal article


Hum Genet

Publication Date





453 - 467


Biomarkers, Blood Glucose, Cholesterol, LDL, Coronary Artery Disease, Genome-Wide Association Study, Genotype, Glycemic Index, Humans, Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors, Lipids, Mendelian Randomization Analysis, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Risk Factors