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The presence of an early repolarization pattern (ERP) on the surface electrocardiogram (ECG) is associated with risk of ventricular fibrillation and sudden cardiac death. Family studies have shown that ERP is a highly heritable trait but molecular genetic determinants are unknown. We assessed the ERP in 12-lead ECGs of 39,456 individuals and conducted a two-stage meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS). In the discovery phase, we included 2,181 cases and 23,641 controls from eight European ancestry studies and identified 19 genome-wide significant (p<5E-8) variants in the KCND3 (potassium voltage gated channel subfamily D member 3) gene with a p-value of 4.6E-10. Replication of two loci in four additional studies including 1,124 cases and 12,510 controls confirmed the association at the KCND3 gene locus with a pooled odds ratio of 0.82, p=7.7E-12 (rs1545300 minor allele T). A subsequent GWAS meta-analysis combining all samples did not reveal additional loci. The lead SNP of the discovery stage (rs12090194) was in strong linkage disequilibrium with rs1545300 (r2=0.96, Dprime=1). Summary statistics based conditional analysis did not reveal any secondary signals. Co-localization analyses indicate causal effects of KCND3 gene expression levels on ERP in both the left ventricle of the heart and in tibial artery. In this study we identified for the first time a genome-wide significant association of a genetic variant with ERP. Our findings of a locus in the KCND3 gene not only provide insights into the genetic determinants but also into the pathophysiological mechanism of ERP, revealing a promising candidate for functional studies.

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