Background and purpose Polymorphisms in coagulation genes have been associated with early-onset ischemic stroke. Here we pursue an a priori hypothesis that genetic variation in the endothelial-based receptors of the thrombomodulin-protein C system (THBD and PROCR) may similarly be associated with early-onset ischemic stroke. We explored this hypothesis utilizing a multistage design of discovery and replication. Methods Discovery was performed in the Genetics-of-Early-Onset Stroke (GEOS) Study, a biracial population-based case-control study of ischemic stroke among men and women aged 15-49 including 829 cases of first ischemic stroke (42.2% African-American) and 850 age-comparable stroke-free controls (38.1% African-American). Twenty-four single-nucleotide-polymorphisms (SNPs) in THBD and 22 SNPs in PROCR were evaluated. Following LD pruning (r2-0.8), we advanced uncorrelated SNPs forward for association analyses. Associated SNPs were evaluated for replication in an early-onset ischemic stroke population (onsetage< 60 years) consisting of 3676 cases and 21118 non-stroke controls from 6 case-control studies. Lastly, we determined if the replicated SNPs also associated with older-onset ischemic stroke in the METASTROKE data-base. Results Among GEOS Caucasians, PROCR rs9574, which was in strong LD with 8 other SNPs, and one additional independent SNP rs2069951, were significantly associated with ischemic stroke (rs9574, OR = 1.33, p = 0.003; rs2069951, OR = 1.80, p = 0.006) using an additivemodel adjusting for age, gender and population-structure. Adjusting for risk factors did not change the associations; however, associations were strengthened among those without risk factors. PROCR rs9574 also associated with early-onset ischemic stroke in the replication sample (OR = 1.08, p = 0.015), but not older-onset stroke. There were no PROCR associations in African-Americans, nor were there any THBD associations in either ethnicity. Conclusion PROCR polymorphisms are associated with early-onset ischemic stroke in Caucasians.
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