Genetically Determined Levels of Circulating Cytokines and Risk of Stroke: Role of Monocyte Chemoattractant Protein-1

Cathie L M Sudlow, Marios K Georgakis, Dipender Gill, Kristiina Rannikmae, Matthew Traylor, Christopher D. Anderson, Jin-Moo Lee, Yoichiro Kamatani, Jemma C. Hopewell, Bradford B Worrall, Jürgen Bernhagen, Rainer Malik, Martin Dichgans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Cytokines and growth factors have been implicated in the initiation and propagation of vascular disease. Observational studies have shown associations of their circulating levels with stroke. Our objective was to explore whether genetically determined circulating levels of cytokines and growth factors are associated with stroke and its etiologic subtypes by conducting a two-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) study.

METHODS: Genetic instruments for 41 cytokines and growth factors were obtained from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of 8,293 healthy adults. Their associations with stroke and stroke subtypes were evaluated in the MEGASTROKE GWAS dataset (67,162 cases; 454,450 controls) applying inverse-variance-weighted meta-analysis, weighted-median analysis, MR-Egger regression, and multivariable MR. The UK Biobank cohort was used as an independent validation sample (4,985 cases; 364,434 controls). Genetic instruments for monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1/CCL2) were further tested for association with etiologically related vascular traits using publicly available GWAS data.

RESULTS: Genetic predisposition to higher MCP-1 levels was associated with higher risk of any stroke (OR per 1-SD increase: 1.06, 95% CI: 1.02-1.09, p=0.0009), any ischemic stroke (OR: 1.06, 95% CI: 1.02-1.10, p=0.002), large artery stroke (OR: 1.19, 95% CI: 1.09-1.30, p=0.0002) and cardioembolic stroke (OR: 1.14, 95% CI: 1.06-1.23, p=0.0004), but not with small vessel stroke or intracerebral hemorrhage. The results were stable in sensitivity analyses and remained significant after adjustment for cardiovascular risk factors. Analyses in the UK Biobank showed similar associations for available phenotypes (any stroke: OR: 1.08, 95% CI: 0.99-1.17, p=0.09; any ischemic stroke: OR: 1.07, 95% CI: 0.97-1.18, p=0.17). Genetically determined higher MCP-1 levels were further associated with coronary artery disease (OR: 1.04, 95% CI: 1.00-1.08, p=0.04) and myocardial infarction (OR: 1.05, 95% CI: 1.01-1.09, p=0.02), but not with atrial fibrillation. A meta-analysis of observational studies showed higher circulating MCP-1 levels in stroke patients compared to controls.

CONCLUSIONS: Genetic predisposition to elevated circulating levels of MCP-1 is associated with higher risk of stroke, particularly with large artery stroke and cardioembolic stroke. Whether targeting MCP-1 or its receptors can lower stroke incidence requires further study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-268
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Early online date26 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2019


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