BACKGROUND Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is an autosomal-dominant disorder caused by mutations in 1 of 3 genes. In the 60% of patients who are mutation negative, we have recently shown that the clinical phenotype can be associated with an accumulation of common small-effect LDL cholesterol (LDL-C)-raising alleles by use of a 12-single nucleotide polymorphism (12-SNP) score. The aims of the study were to improve the selection of SNPs and replicate the results in additional samples. METHODS We used ROC curves to determine the optimum number of LDL-C SNPs. For replication analysis, we genotyped patients with a clinical diagnosis of FH from 6 countries for 6 LDL-C-associated alleles. We compared the weighted SNP score among patients with no confirmed mutation (FH/M-), those with a mutation (FH/M+), and controls from a UK population sample (WHII). RESULTS Increasing the number of SNPs to 33 did not improve the ability of the score to discriminate between FH/M- and controls, whereas sequential removal of SNPs with smaller effects/lower frequency showed that a weighted score of 6 SNPs performed as well as the 12-SNP score. Metaanalysis of the weighted 6-SNP score, on the basis of polymorphisms in CELSR2 (cadherin, EGF LAG 7-pass G-type receptor 2), APOB (apolipoprotein B), ABCG5/8 [ATP-binding cassette, sub-family G (WHITE), member 5/8], LDLR (low density lipoprotein receptor), and APOE (apolipoprotein E) loci, in the independent FH/M- cohorts showed a consistently higher score in comparison to the WHII population (P < 2.2 × 10(-16)). Modeling in individuals with a 6-SNP score in the top three-fourths of the score distribution indicated a >95% likelihood of a polygenic explanation of their increased LDL-C. CONCLUSIONS A 6-SNP LDL-C score consistently distinguishes FH/M- patients from healthy individuals. The hypercholesterolemia in 88% of mutation-negative patients is likely to have a polygenic basis.