Oxford University Press, Human Molecular Genetics, 3(31), p. 455-470, 2021
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Abstract Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of vision loss among the elderly in the Western world. Genetic variants in the complement factor H (CFH) gene are associated with AMD, but the functional consequences of many of these variants are currently unknown. In this study, we aimed to determine the effect of 64 rare and low-frequency variants in the CFH gene on systemic levels of factor H (FH) and complement activation marker C3bBbP using plasma samples of 252 carriers and 159 non-carriers. Individuals carrying a heterozygous nonsense, frameshift or missense variant in CFH presented with significantly decreased FH levels and significantly increased C3bBbP levels in plasma compared to non-carrier controls. FH and C3bBbP plasma levels were relatively stable over time in samples collected during follow-up visits. Decreased FH and increased C3bBbP concentrations were observed in carriers compared to non-carriers of CFH variants among different AMD stages, with the exception of C3bBbP levels in advanced AMD stages, which were equally high in carriers and non-carriers. In AMD families, FH levels were decreased in carriers compared to non-carriers, but C3bBbP levels did not differ. Rare variants in the CFH gene can lead to reduced FH levels or reduced FH function as measured by increased C3bBbP levels. The effects of individual variants in the CFH gene reported in this study will improve the interpretation of rare and low-frequency variants observed in AMD patients in clinical practice.