We sought to assess whether genetic risk factors for atrial fibrillation (AF) can explain cardioembolic stroke risk.
We evaluated genetic correlations between a previous genetic study of AF and AF in the presence of cardioembolic stroke using genome-wide genotypes from the Stroke Genetics Network (N = 3,190 AF cases, 3,000 cardioembolic stroke cases, and 28,026 referents). We tested whether a previously validated AF polygenic risk score (PRS) associated with cardioembolic and other stroke subtypes after accounting for AF clinical risk factors.
We observed a strong correlation between previously reported genetic risk for AF, AF in the presence of stroke, and cardioembolic stroke (Pearson r = 0.77 and 0.76, respectively, across SNPs with p <4.4 x 10(-4) in the previous AF meta-analysis). An AF PRS, adjusted for clinical AF risk factors, was associated with cardioembolic stroke (odds ratio [OR] per SD = 1.40, p = 1.45 x 10(-48)), explaining similar to 20% of the heritable component of cardioembolic stroke risk. The AF PRS was also associated with stroke of undetermined cause (OR per SD = 1.07,p = 0.004), but no other primary stroke subtypes (all p > 0.1).
Genetic risk of AF is associated with cardioembolic stroke, independent of clinical risk factors. Studies are warranted to determine whether AF genetic risk can serve as a biomarker for strokes caused by AF.