The primary constituents of plaques (Aβ42/Aβ40) and neurofibrillary tangles (tau and phosphorylated forms of tau [ptau]) are the current leading diagnostic and prognostic cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers for AD. In this study, we performed deep sequencing of APP, PSEN1, PSEN2, GRN, APOE and MAPT genes in individuals with extreme CSF Aβ42, tau, or ptau levels. One known pathogenic mutation (PSEN1 p.A426P), four high-risk variants for AD (APOE p.L46P, MAPT p.A152T, PSEN2 p.R62H and p.R71W) and nine novel variants were identified. Surprisingly, a coding variant in PSEN1, p.E318G (rs17125721-G) exhibited a significant association with high CSF tau (p = 9.2×10−4) and ptau (p = 1.8×10−3) levels. The association of the p.E318G variant with Aβ deposition was observed in APOE-ε4 allele carriers. Furthermore, we found that in a large case-control series (n = 5,161) individuals who are APOE-ε4 carriers and carry the p.E318G variant are at a risk of developing AD (OR = 10.7, 95% CI = 4.7–24.6) that is similar to APOE-ε4 homozygous (OR = 9.9, 95% CI = 7.2.9–13.6), and double the risk for APOE-ε4 carriers that do not carry p.E318G (OR = 3.9, 95% CI = 3.4–4.4). The p.E318G variant is present in 5.3% (n = 30) of the families from a large clinical series of LOAD families (n = 565) and exhibited a higher frequency in familial LOAD (MAF = 2.5%) than in sporadic LOAD (MAF = 1.6%) (p = 0.02). Additionally, we found that in the presence of at least one APOE-ε4 allele, p.E318G is associated with more Aβ plaques and faster cognitive decline. We demonstrate that the effect of PSEN1, p.E318G on AD susceptibility is largely dependent on an interaction with APOE-ε4 and mediated by an increased burden of Aβ deposition.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common neurodegenerative disease affecting more than 5.3 million people in the US. AD-causing mutations have been identified in APP, PSEN1 and PSEN2 genes. Heterozygous carriers of APOE-ε4 allele exhibit a 3-fold increased risk for developing AD, while homozygous carriers show a 10-fold greater risk than non-carriers. Here, we sequenced individuals with extreme levels of well-established AD cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers in order to identify variants in APOE, APP, PSEN1, PSEN2, GRN and MAPT genes associated with AD risk. This approach allowed us to identify known pathogenic variants, additional AD risk genetic factors and identify a low frequency variant in PSEN1, p.E318G (rs17125721-G) that increases risk for AD in a gene-gene interaction with APOE. These findings were replicated in three large (>4,000 individuals) and independent datasets. This finding is particularly important because we demonstrated that a currently considered non-pathogenic variant is associated with higher levels of neuronal degeneration, and with Aβ deposition, more Aβ plaques and faster cognitive decline in an APOE-ε4-dependent fashion. APOE-ε4 heterozygous individuals who carry this variant are at similar AD risk as APOE-ε4 homozygous individuals.