VWF is extensively glycosylated with biantennary core fucosylated glycans. Most N-linked and O-linked glycans on VWF are sialylated. FVIII is also glycosylated, with a glycan structure similar to that of VWF. ST3GAL sialyltransferases catalyze the transfer of sialic acids in the a2,3 linkage to termini of N- and O-glycans. This sialic acid modification is critical for VWF synthesis and activity. We analyzed genetic and phenotypic data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study for the association of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the ST3GAL4 gene with plasma VWF levels and FVIII activity in 12,117 subjects. We also analyzed ST3GAL4 SNPs found in 2,535 subjects of 26 ethnicities from the 1000 Genomes (1000G) project for ethnic diversity, SNP imputation, and ST3GAL4 haplotypes. We identified 14 and 1,714 ST3GAL4 variants in the ARIC GWAS and 1000G databases respectively, with 46% being ethnically diverse in their allele frequencies. Among the 14 ST3GAL4 SNPs found in ARIC GWAS, the intronic rs2186717, rs7928391, and rs11220465 were associated with VWF levels and with FVIII activity after adjustment for age, BMI, hypertension, diabetes, ever-smoking status, and ABO. This study illustrates the power of next-generation sequencing in the discovery of new genetic variants and a significant ethnic diversity in the ST3GAL4 gene. We discuss potential mechanisms through which these intronic SNPs regulate ST3GAL4 biosynthesis and the activity that affects VWF and FVIII.
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