BACKGROUND: The lipoprotein scavenger receptor BI (SCARB1) rs10846744 noncoding variant is significantly associated with atherosclerotic disease independently of traditional cardiovascular risk factors. We identified a potentially novel connection between rs10846744, the immune checkpoint inhibitor lymphocyte activation gene 3 (LAG3), and atherosclerosis. METHODS: In vitro approaches included flow cytometry, lipid raft isolation, phosphosignaling, cytokine measurements, and overexpressing and silencing LAG3 protein. Fasting plasma LAG3 protein was measured in hyperalphalipoproteinemic (HALP) and Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) participants. RESULTS: In comparison with rs10846744 reference (GG homozygous) cells, LAG3 protein levels by flow cytometry (P < 0.001), in lipid rafts stimulated and unstimulated (P = 0.03), and phosphosignaling downstream of B cell receptor engagement of CD79A (P = 0.04), CD19 (P = 0.04), and LYN (P = 0.001) were lower in rs10846744 risk (CC homozygous) cells. Overexpressing LAG3 protein in risk cells and silencing LAG3 in reference cells confirmed its importance in phosphosignaling. Secretion of TNF-α was higher (P = 0.04) and IL-10 was lower (P = 0.04) in risk cells. Plasma LAG3 levels were lower in HALP carriers of the CC allele (P < 0.0001) and by race (P = 0.004). In MESA, race (P = 0.0005), age (P = 0.003), lipid medications (P = 0.03), smoking history (P < 0.0001), and rs10846744 genotype (P = 0.002) were independent predictors of plasma LAG3. In multivariable regression models, plasma LAG3 was significantly associated with HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C) (P = 0.007), plasma IL-10 (P < 0.0001), and provided additional predictive value above the Framingham risk score (P = 0.04). In MESA, when stratified by high HDL-C, plasma LAG3 was associated with coronary heart disease (CHD) (odds ratio 1.45, P = 0.004). CONCLUSION: Plasma LAG3 is a potentially novel independent predictor of HDL-C levels and CHD risk.
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