Objective: Fibrinogen levels and fibrinogen clot structure have been implicated in the pathogenesis of vascular disease. We examined fibrinogen levels and variation in fibrinogen genes (fibrinogen γ (FGG), α (FGA) and β (FGB)), which have been associated with fibrin clot structure and fibrinogen levels, in relation to cerebral small vessel disease (SVD).
Methods and results: This study was performed as part of the Rotterdam Scan Study, a population based study in 1077 elderly patients undergoing cerebral MRI. Plasma fibrinogen levels and haplotypes were determined. We examined the association between fibrinogen levels and haplotype with silent brain infarcts and white matter lesions using logistic regression models. We constructed seven haplotypes (frequency >0.01) that describe the total common variation in the FGG and FGA genes. Haplotype 2 (GATAGTG) was associated with the presence of silent brain infarcts compared with the most frequent haplotype (GGTGGTA) (OR 1.41, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.94). Haplotype 3 (GGCGATA) was associated with periventricular white matter lesions in the highest tertile of the distribution (OR 1.40, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.92). No association was found between plasma fibrinogen levels and SVD.
Conclusions: Our study provides evidence for an association of common variation in the FGG and FGA genes with cerebral SVD. It is possible that the structure of the fibrin clot rather than plasma fibrinogen levels plays a role in the pathogenesis of cerebral SVD.
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Funding: This study was supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO grant 904-61093). The Rotterdam Study is supported by the Erasmus Medical Centre and Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw), the Research Institute for Diseases in the Elderly (RIDE), the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, The European Commission (DG XII), and the Municipality of Rotterdam.
Competing interests: None.
Ethics approval: The medical ethics committee of Erasmus Medical Centre approved the study.
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