Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

OBJECTIVE: To identify novel genetic associations with white matter hyperintensities (WMH). METHODS: We performed a genome-wide association meta-analysis of WMH volumes in 11,226 individuals, including 8,429 population-based individuals from UK Biobank and 2,797 stroke patients. Replication of novel loci was performed in an independent dataset of 1,202 individuals. In all studies, WMH were quantified using validated automated or semi-automated methods. Imputation was to either the Haplotype Reference Consortium or 1,000 Genomes Phase 3 panels. RESULTS: We identified a locus at genome-wide significance in an intron of PLEKHG1 (rs275350, β [SE] = 0.071 [0.013]; p = 1.6 × 10-8), a Rho guanine nucleotide exchange factor that is involved in reorientation of cells in the vascular endothelium. This association was validated in an independent sample (overall p value, 2.4 × 10-9). The same single nucleotide polymorphism was associated with all ischemic stroke (odds ratio [OR] [95% confidence interval (CI)] 1.07 [1.03-1.12], p = 0.00051), most strongly with the small vessel subtype (OR [95% CI] 1.09 [1.00-1.19], p = 0.044). Previous associations at 17q25 and 2p16 reached genome-wide significance in this analysis (rs3744020; β [SE] = 0.106 [0.016]; p = 1.2 × 10-11 and rs7596872; β [SE] = 0.143 [0.021]; p = 3.4 × 10-12). All identified associations with WMH to date explained 1.16% of the trait variance in UK Biobank, equivalent to 6.4% of the narrow-sense heritability. CONCLUSIONS: Genetic variation in PLEKHG1 is associated with WMH and ischemic stroke, most strongly with the small vessel subtype, suggesting it acts by promoting small vessel arteriopathy.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





e749 - e757


Adult, Aged, Brain Ischemia, Cerebral Small Vessel Diseases, Female, Genome-Wide Association Study, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Rho Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors, Stroke, Stroke, Lacunar, White Matter