BACKGROUND: Growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF-15) is produced by cardiomyocytes and atherosclerotic lesions under stress conditions. Although higher circulating GDF-15 concentrations are associated with mortality across a spectrum of cardiovascular conditions, the relationship of GDF-15 with atherosclerosis and mortality in the general population remains undefined.
METHODS: We measured plasma GDF-15 in 3219 participants of the Dallas Heart Study, a population sample of adults ages 30–65 years (55% women, 49% black). GDF-15 was analyzed in prespecified categories (<1200; 1200–1799; and ≥1800 ng/L) and continuously. End points included prevalent coronary artery calcium (CAC >10 Agatston units), increased CAC (CAC ≥100 Agatston units) by electron beam computed tomography, and mortality through a median 7.3 years of follow-up (120 deaths, 48 cardiovascular deaths).
RESULTS: Increasing GDF-15 associated with older age, black race, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, left ventricular (LV) mass/body surface area, and worse renal function (P < 0.0001 for each). In multivariable models adjusted for traditional risk factors, renal function, and LV mass/body surface area, GDF-15 ≥1800 ng/L was associated with CAC >10 (odds ratio 2.1; 95% CI 1.2–3.7; P = 0.01), CAC ≥100 (odds ratio 2.6; 95% CI 1.4–4.9; P = 0.002), all-cause mortality (hazard ratio 3.5; 95% CI 2.1–5.9, P < 0.0001), and cardiovascular mortality (hazard ratio 2.5; 95% CI 1.1–5.8, P = 0.03). Adding log GDF-15 to fully adjusted models modestly improved the c statistic (P = 0.025), the integrated discrimination index (0.028; P < 0.0001) and the category-less net reclassification index (0.42; P = 0.002). These findings remained significant with further adjustment for high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, N-terminal pro–B-type natriuretic peptide, and cardiac troponin T.
CONCLUSIONS: GDF-15 is independently associated with subclinical coronary atherosclerosis and mortality, and its potential role for risk stratification in the general population merits further evaluation.
- Received for publication July 13, 2011.
- Accepted for publication September 8, 2011.
- © 2012 The American Association for Clinical Chemistry