Two common variants in the gene encoding complement factor H (CFH), the Y402H substitution (rs1061170, c.1204C>T) and the intronic rs1410996 SNP, explain 17% of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) liability. However, proof for the involvement of CFH, as opposed to a neighboring transcript, and knowledge of the potential mechanism of susceptibility alleles are lacking. Assuming that rare functional variants might provide mechanistic insights, we used genotype data and high-throughput sequencing to discover a rare, high-risk CFH haplotype with a c.3628C>T mutation that resulted in an R1210C substitution. This allele has been implicated previously in atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome, and it abrogates C-terminal ligand binding. Genotyping R1210C in 2,423 AMD cases and 1,122 controls demonstrated high penetrance (present in 40 cases versus 1 control, P = 7.0 × 10 -6) and an association with a 6-year-earlier onset of disease (P = 2.3 × 10 -6). This result suggests that loss-of-function alleles at CFH are likely to drive AMD risk. This finding represents one of the first instances in which a common complex disease variant has led to the discovery of a rare penetrant mutation.
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