Background and aims: Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is caused by pathogenic variants in LDLR, APOB, or PCSK9 genes (designated FH+). However, a significant number of clinical FH patients do not carry these variants (designated FH-). Here, we investigated whether variants in intronic regions of LDLR attribute to FH by affecting pre-mRNA splicing. Methods: LDLR introns are partly covered in routine sequencing of clinical FH patients using next-generation sequencing. Deep intronic variants, >20 bp from intron-exon boundary, were considered of interest once (a) present in FH- patients (n = 909) with LDL-C >7 mmol/L (severe FH-) or after in silico analysis in patients with LDL-C >5 mmol/L (moderate FH-) and b) absent in FH + patients (control group). cDNA analysis and co-segregation analysis were performed to assess pathogenicity of the identified variants. Results: Three unique variants were present in the severe FH- group. One of these was the previously described likely pathogenic variant c.2140+103G>T. Three additional variants were selected based on in silico analyses in the moderate FH- group. One of these variants, c.2141-218G>A, was found to result in a pseudo-exon inclusion, producing a premature stop codon. This variant co-segregated with the hypercholesterolemic phenotype. Conclusions: Through a screening approach, we identified a deep intronic variant causal for FH. This finding indicates that filtering intronic variants in FH- patients for the absence in FH + patients might enrich for true FH-causing variants and suggests that intronic regions of LDLR need to be considered for sequencing in FH- patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-20
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • Familial hypercholesterolemia
  • Intron
  • LDL cholesterol
  • LDL receptor
  • Next-generation sequencing
  • RNA splicing

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