Rare mutations in AβPP, PSEN1, and PSEN2 cause uncommon early onset forms of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and common variants in MAPT are associated with risk of other neurodegenerative disorders. We sought to establish whether common genetic variation in these genes confer risk to the common form of AD which occurs later in life (>65 years). We therefore tested single-nucleotide polymorphisms at these loci for association with late-onset AD (LOAD) in a large case-control sample consisting of 3,940 cases and 13,373 controls. Single-marker analysis did not identify any variants that reached genome-wide significance, a result which is supported by other recent genome-wide association studies. However, we did observe a significant association at the MAPT locus using a gene-wide approach (p = 0.009). We also observed suggestive association between AD and the marker rs9468, which defines the H1 haplotype, an extended haplotype that spans the MAPT gene and has previously been implicated in other neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson’s disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, and corticobasal degeneration. In summary common variants at AβPP, PSEN1, and PSEN2 and MAPT are unlikely to make strong contributions to susceptibility for LOAD. However, the gene-wide effect observed at MAPT indicates a possible contribution to disease risk which requires further study.
Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid-β protein precursor; genetics; human; MAPT protein; PSEN1 protein; PSEN2 protein
MAPT encodes for tau, the predominant component of neurofibrillary tangles that are neuropathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Genetic association of MAPT variants with late-onset AD (LOAD) risk has been inconsistent, although insufficient power and incomplete assessment of MAPT haplotypes may account for this.
We examined the association of MAPT haplotypes with LOAD risk in more than 20,000 subjects (n-cases = 9,814, n-controls = 11,550) from Mayo Clinic (n-cases = 2,052, n-controls = 3,406) and the Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC, n-cases = 7,762, n-controls = 8,144). We also assessed associations with brain MAPT gene expression levels measured in the cerebellum (n = 197) and temporal cortex (n = 202) of LOAD subjects. Six single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) which tag MAPT haplotypes with frequencies greater than 1% were evaluated.
H2-haplotype tagging rs8070723-G allele associated with reduced risk of LOAD (odds ratio, OR = 0.90, 95% confidence interval, CI = 0.85-0.95, p = 5.2E-05) with consistent results in the Mayo (OR = 0.81, p = 7.0E-04) and ADGC (OR = 0.89, p = 1.26E-04) cohorts. rs3785883-A allele was also nominally significantly associated with LOAD risk (OR = 1.06, 95% CI = 1.01-1.13, p = 0.034). Haplotype analysis revealed significant global association with LOAD risk in the combined cohort (p = 0.033), with significant association of the H2 haplotype with reduced risk of LOAD as expected (p = 1.53E-04) and suggestive association with additional haplotypes. MAPT SNPs and haplotypes also associated with brain MAPT levels in the cerebellum and temporal cortex of AD subjects with the strongest associations observed for the H2 haplotype and reduced brain MAPT levels (β = -0.16 to -0.20, p = 1.0E-03 to 3.0E-03).
These results confirm the previously reported MAPT H2 associations with LOAD risk in two large series, that this haplotype has the strongest effect on brain MAPT expression amongst those tested and identify additional haplotypes with suggestive associations, which require replication in independent series. These biologically congruent results provide compelling evidence to screen the MAPT region for regulatory variants which confer LOAD risk by influencing its brain gene expression.
Alzheimer's disease is a common debilitating dementia with known heritability, for which 20 late onset susceptibility loci have been identified, but more remain to be discovered. This study sought to identify new susceptibility genes, using an alternative gene-wide analytical approach which tests for patterns of association within genes, in the powerful genome-wide association dataset of the International Genomics of Alzheimer's Project Consortium, comprising over 7 m genotypes from 25,580 Alzheimer's cases and 48,466 controls.
In addition to earlier reported genes, we detected genome-wide significant loci on chromosomes 8 (TP53INP1, p = 1.4×10−6) and 14 (IGHV1-67 p = 7.9×10−8) which indexed novel susceptibility loci.
The additional genes identified in this study, have an array of functions previously implicated in Alzheimer's disease, including aspects of energy metabolism, protein degradation and the immune system and add further weight to these pathways as potential therapeutic targets in Alzheimer's disease.
Eleven susceptibility loci for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) were identified by previous studies; however, a large portion of the genetic risk for this disease remains unexplained. We conducted a large, two-stage meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in individuals of European ancestry. In stage 1, we used genotyped and imputed data (7,055,881 SNPs) to perform meta-analysis on 4 previously published GWAS data sets consisting of 17,008 Alzheimer’s disease cases and 37,154 controls. In stage 2,11,632 SNPs were genotyped and tested for association in an independent set of 8,572 Alzheimer’s disease cases and 11,312 controls. In addition to the APOE locus (encoding apolipoprotein E), 19 loci reached genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10−8) in the combined stage 1 and stage 2 analysis, of which 11 are newly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Nicastrin (NCSTN) is a component of the γ-secretase complex and therefore potentially a candidate risk gene for Alzheimer's disease. Here, we have developed a novel functional genomics methodology to express common locus haplotypes to assess functional differences. DNA recombination was used to engineer 5 bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) to each express a different haplotype of the NCSTN locus. Each NCSTN-BAC was delivered to knockout nicastrin (Ncstn−/−) cells and clonal NCSTN-BAC+/Ncstn−/− cell lines were created for functional analyses. We showed that all NCSTN-BAC haplotypes expressed nicastrin protein and rescued γ-secretase activity and amyloid beta (Aβ) production in NCSTN-BAC+/Ncstn−/− lines. We then showed that genetic variation at the NCSTN locus affected alternative splicing in human postmortem brain tissue. However, there was no robust functional difference between clonal cell lines rescued by each of the 5 different haplotypes. Finally, there was no statistically significant association of NCSTN with disease risk in the 4 cohorts. We therefore conclude that it is unlikely that common variation at the NCSTN locus is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease.
Nicastrin; Haplotype variation; Functional genomics; Alzheimer's disease; γ-Secretase complex
Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of late-onset Alzheimer disease (LOAD) identified 9 novel risk loci. Discovery of functional variants within genes at these loci is required to confirm their role in Alzheimer disease (AD). Single nucleotide polymorphisms that influence gene expression (eSNPs) constitute an important class of functional variants. We therefore investigated the influence of the novel LOAD risk loci on human brain gene expression.
We measured gene expression levels in the cerebellum and temporal cortex of autopsied AD subjects and those with other brain pathologies (∼400 total subjects). To determine whether any of the novel LOAD risk variants are eSNPs, we tested their cis-association with expression of 6 nearby LOAD candidate genes detectable in human brain (ABCA7, BIN1, CLU, MS4A4A, MS4A6A, PICALM) and an additional 13 genes ±100 kb of these SNPs. To identify additional eSNPs that influence brain gene expression levels of the novel candidate LOAD genes, we identified SNPs ±100 kb of their location and tested for cis-associations.
CLU rs11136000 (p = 7.81 × 10−4) and MS4A4A rs2304933/rs2304935 (p = 1.48 × 10−4–1.86 × 10−4) significantly influence temporal cortex expression levels of these genes. The LOAD-protective CLU and risky MS4A4A locus alleles associate with higher brain levels of these genes. There are other cis-variants that significantly influence brain expression of CLU and ABCA7 (p = 4.01 × 10−5–9.09 × 10−9), some of which also associate with AD risk (p = 2.64 × 10−2–6.25 × 10−5).
CLU and MS4A4A eSNPs may at least partly explain the LOAD risk association at these loci. CLU and ABCA7 may harbor additional strong eSNPs. These results have implications in the search for functional variants at the novel LOAD risk loci.
The risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is strongly determined by genetic factors and recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified several genes for the disease risk. In addition to the disease risk, age-at-onset (AAO) of AD has also strong genetic component with an estimated heritability of 42%. Identification of AAO genes may help to understand the biological mechanisms that regulate the onset of the disease. Here we report the first GWAS focused on identifying genes for the AAO of AD. We performed a genome-wide meta analysis on 3 samples comprising a total of 2,222 AD cases. A total of ~2.5 million directly genotyped or imputed SNPs were analyzed in relation to AAO of AD. As expected, the most significant associations were observed in the APOE region on chromosome 19 where several SNPs surpassed the conservative genome-wide significant threshold (P<5E-08). The most significant SNP outside the APOE region was located in the DCHS2 gene on chromosome 4q31.3 (rs1466662; P=4.95E-07). There were 19 additional significant SNPs in this region at P<1E-04 and the DCHS2 gene is expressed in the cerebral cortex and thus is a potential candidate for affecting AAO in AD. These findings need to be confirmed in additional well-powered samples.
Genome-wide association study; age-at-onset; Alzheimer’s disease; single-nucleotide polymorphisms; meta analysis
GRB-associated binding protein 2 (GAB2) represents a compelling genome-wide association signal for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) with reported odds ratios (ORs) ranging from 0.75–0.85. We tested eight GAB2 variants in four North American Caucasian case-control series (2,316 LOAD, 2,538 controls) for association with LOAD. Meta-analyses revealed ORs ranging from (0.61–1.20) with no significant association (all p>0.32). Four variants were hetergeneous across the populations (all p<0.02) due to a potentially inflated effect size (OR = 0.61–0.66) only observed in the smallest series (702 LOAD, 209 controls). Despite the lack of association in our series, the previously reported protective association for GAB2 remained after meta-analyses of our data with all available previously published series (11,952-22,253 samples; OR = 0.82–0.88; all p<0.04). Using a freely available database of lymphoblastoid cell lines we found that protective GAB2 variants were associated with increased GAB2 expression (p = 9.5×10−7−9.3×10−6). We next measured GAB2 mRNA levels in 249 brains and found that decreased neurofibrillary tangle (r = −0.34, p = 0.0006) and senile plaque counts (r = −0.32, p = 0.001) were both good predictors of increased GAB2 mRNA levels albeit that sex (r = −0.28, p = 0.005) may have been a contributing factor. In summary, we hypothesise that GAB2 variants that are protective against LOAD in some populations may act functionally to increase GAB2 mRNA levels (in lymphoblastoid cells) and that increased GAB2 mRNA levels are associated with significantly decreased LOAD pathology. These findings support the hypothesis that Gab2 may protect neurons against LOAD but due to significant population heterogeneity, it is still unclear whether this protection is detectable at the genetic level.
The most recent late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) genome-wide association study revealed genome-wide significant association of two new loci: rs744373 near BIN1 (p=1.6×10−11) and rs597668 near EXOC3L2/BLOC1S3/MARK4 (p=6.5×10−9). We have genotyped these variants in a large (3,287 LOAD, 4,396 controls), independent dataset comprising eleven case-control series from the USA and Europe. We performed meta-analyses of the association of these variants with LOAD and also tested for association using logistic regression adjusted by age-at-diagnosis, sex and APOE ε4 status. Meta-analysis results showed no evidence of series heterogeneity and logistic regression analysis successfully replicated the association of BIN1 (rs744373) with LOAD with an odds ratio (OR=1.17, p=1.1×10−4) comparable to that previously reported (OR=1.15). The variant near EXOC3L2 (rs597668) showed only suggestive association with LOAD (p=0.09) after correcting for the presence of the APOE ε4 allele. Addition of our follow-up data to the results previously reported increased the strength of evidence for association with BIN1 (11,825 LOAD, 32,570 controls, rs744373 Fisher combined p=3.8×10−20). We also tested for epistatic interaction between these variants and APOEε4 as well as with the previously replicated LOAD GWAS genes (CLU: rs11136000, CR1; rs3818361, and PICALM: rs3851179). No significant interactions between these genes were detected. In summary, we provide additional evidence for the variant near BIN1 (rs744373) as a LOAD risk modifier, but our results indicate that the effect of EXOC3L2 independent of APOE ε4 should be studied further.
Alzheimer Disease; Late Onset; Heterogeneity; Meta-Analysis; Case-Control Studies
Expanded glutamine repeats of the ataxin-2 (ATXN2) protein cause spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2), a rare neurodegenerative disorder. More recent studies have suggested that expanded ATXN2 repeats are a genetic risk factor for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) via an RNA-dependent interaction with TDP-43. Given the phenotypic diversity observed in SCA2 patients, we set out to determine the polymorphic nature of the ATXN2 repeat length across a spectrum of neurodegenerative disorders. In this study, we genotyped the ATXN2 repeat in 3919 neurodegenerative disease patients and 4877 healthy controls and performed logistic regression analysis to determine the association of repeat length with the risk of disease. We confirmed the presence of a significantly higher number of expanded ATXN2 repeat carriers in ALS patients compared with healthy controls (OR = 5.57; P= 0.001; repeat length >30 units). Furthermore, we observed significant association of expanded ATXN2 repeats with the development of progressive supranuclear palsy (OR = 5.83; P= 0.004; repeat length >30 units). Although expanded repeat carriers were also identified in frontotemporal lobar degeneration, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease patients, these were not significantly more frequent than in controls. Of note, our study identified a number of healthy control individuals who harbor expanded repeat alleles (31–33 units), which suggests caution should be taken when attributing specific disease phenotypes to these repeat lengths. In conclusion, our findings confirm the role of ATXN2 as an important risk factor for ALS and support the hypothesis that expanded ATXN2 repeats may predispose to other neurodegenerative diseases, including progressive supranuclear palsy.
A variety of definitions of successful aging have been proposed, many of which relate to longevity, freedom from disease and disability, or preservation of high physical and cognitive function. Many behavioral, biomedical, and psychological factors have been linked with these various measures of successful aging, however genetic predictors are less understood. Parkinson's disease (PD) is an age-related neurodegenerative disorder, and variants in the α-synuclein gene (SNCA) affect susceptibility to PD. This exploratory study examined whether SNCA variants may also promote successful aging as defined by survival without neurological disease.
We utilized 769 controls without neurological disease (Mean age: 79 years, Range: 33–99 years) and examined the frequency of 20 different SNCA variants across age groups using logistic regression models. We also included 426 PD cases to assess the effect of these variants on PD risk.
There was a significant decline in the proportion of carriers of the minor allele of rs10014396 as age increased (P = 0.021), from 30% in controls younger than 60 to 14% in controls 90 years of age or older. Findings were similar for rs3775439, where the proportion of carriers of the minor allele declined from 32% in controls less than 60 years old to 19% in those 90 or older (P = 0.025). A number of SNCA variants, not including rs10014396 or rs3775439, were significantly associated with susceptibility to PD.
In addition to its documented roles in PD and α-synucleinopathies, our results suggest that SNCA has a role in survival free of neurological disease. Acknowledging that our findings would not have withstood correction for multiple testing, validation in an independent series of aged neurologically normal controls is needed.
Genetic variants that modify brain gene expression may also influence risk for human diseases. We measured expression levels of 24,526 transcripts in brain samples from the cerebellum and temporal cortex of autopsied subjects with Alzheimer's disease (AD, cerebellar n = 197, temporal cortex n = 202) and with other brain pathologies (non–AD, cerebellar n = 177, temporal cortex n = 197). We conducted an expression genome-wide association study (eGWAS) using 213,528 cisSNPs within ±100 kb of the tested transcripts. We identified 2,980 cerebellar cisSNP/transcript level associations (2,596 unique cisSNPs) significant in both ADs and non–ADs (q<0.05, p = 7.70×10−5–1.67×10−82). Of these, 2,089 were also significant in the temporal cortex (p = 1.85×10−5–1.70×10−141). The top cerebellar cisSNPs had 2.4-fold enrichment for human disease-associated variants (p<10−6). We identified novel cisSNP/transcript associations for human disease-associated variants, including progressive supranuclear palsy SLCO1A2/rs11568563, Parkinson's disease (PD) MMRN1/rs6532197, Paget's disease OPTN/rs1561570; and we confirmed others, including PD MAPT/rs242557, systemic lupus erythematosus and ulcerative colitis IRF5/rs4728142, and type 1 diabetes mellitus RPS26/rs1701704. In our eGWAS, there was 2.9–3.3 fold enrichment (p<10−6) of significant cisSNPs with suggestive AD–risk association (p<10−3) in the Alzheimer's Disease Genetics Consortium GWAS. These results demonstrate the significant contributions of genetic factors to human brain gene expression, which are reliably detected across different brain regions and pathologies. The significant enrichment of brain cisSNPs among disease-associated variants advocates gene expression changes as a mechanism for many central nervous system (CNS) and non–CNS diseases. Combined assessment of expression and disease GWAS may provide complementary information in discovery of human disease variants with functional implications. Our findings have implications for the design and interpretation of eGWAS in general and the use of brain expression quantitative trait loci in the study of human disease genetics.
Genetic variants that regulate gene expression levels can also influence human disease risk. Discovery of genomic loci that alter brain gene expression levels (brain expression quantitative trait loci = eQTLs) can be instrumental in the identification of genetic risk underlying both central nervous system (CNS) and non–CNS diseases. To systematically assess the role of brain eQTLs in human disease and to evaluate the influence of brain region and pathology in eQTL mapping, we performed an expression genome-wide association study (eGWAS) in 773 brain samples from the cerebellum and temporal cortex of ∼200 autopsied subjects with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and ∼200 with other brain pathologies (non–AD). We identified ∼3,000 significant associations between cisSNPs near ∼700 genes and their cerebellar transcript levels, which replicate in ADs and non–ADs. More than 2,000 of these associations were reproducible in the temporal cortex. The top cisSNPs are enriched for both CNS and non–CNS disease-associated variants. We identified novel and confirmed previous cisSNP/transcript associations for many disease loci, suggesting gene expression regulation as their mechanism of action. These findings demonstrate the reproducibility of the eQTL approach across different brain regions and pathologies, and advocate the combined use of gene expression and disease GWAS for identification and functional characterization of human disease-associated variants.
Glutathione S-transferase omega-1 and 2 genes (GSTO1, GSTO2), residing within an Alzheimer and Parkinson disease (AD and PD) linkage region, have diverse functions including mitigation of oxidative stress and may underlie the pathophysiology of both diseases. GSTO polymorphisms were previously reported to associate with risk and age-at-onset of these diseases, although inconsistent follow-up study designs make interpretation of results difficult. We assessed two previously reported SNPs, GSTO1 rs4925 and GSTO2 rs156697, in AD (3,493 ADs vs. 4,617 controls) and PD (678 PDs vs. 712 controls) for association with disease risk (case-controls), age-at-diagnosis (cases) and brain gene expression levels (autopsied subjects).
We found that rs156697 minor allele associates with significantly increased risk (odds ratio = 1.14, p = 0.038) in the older ADs with age-at-diagnosis > 80 years. The minor allele of GSTO1 rs4925 associates with decreased risk in familial PD (odds ratio = 0.78, p = 0.034). There was no other association with disease risk or age-at-diagnosis. The minor alleles of both GSTO SNPs associate with lower brain levels of GSTO2 (p = 4.7 × 10-11-1.9 × 10-27), but not GSTO1. Pathway analysis of significant genes in our brain expression GWAS, identified significant enrichment for glutathione metabolism genes (p = 0.003).
These results suggest that GSTO locus variants may lower brain GSTO2 levels and consequently confer AD risk in older age. Other glutathione metabolism genes should be assessed for their effects on AD and other chronic, neurologic diseases.
GSTO genes; Disease risk; Gene expression; Association
We sought to identify new susceptibility loci for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) through a staged association study (GERAD+) and by testing suggestive loci reported by the Alzheimer’s Disease Genetic Consortium (ADGC). First, we undertook a combined analysis of four genome-wide association datasets (Stage 1) and identified 10 novel variants with P≤1×10−5. These were tested for association in an independent sample (Stage 2). Three SNPs at two loci replicated and showed evidence for association in a further sample (Stage 3). Meta-analyses of all data provide compelling evidence that ABCA7 (meta-P 4.5×10−17; including ADGC meta-P=5.0×10−21) and the MS4A gene cluster (rs610932, meta-P=1.8×10−14; including ADGC meta-P=1.2×10−16; rs670139, meta-P=1.4×10−9; including ADGC meta-P=1.1×10−10) are novel susceptibility loci for AD. Second, we observed independent evidence for association for three suggestive loci reported by the ADGC GWAS, which when combined shows genome-wide significance: CD2AP (GERAD+ P=8.0×10−4; including ADGC meta-P=8.6×10−9), CD33 (GERAD+ P=2.2×10−4; including ADGC meta-P=1.6×10−9) and EPHA1 (GERAD+ P=3.4×10−4; including ADGC meta-P=6.0×10−10). These findings support five novel susceptibility genes for AD.
The Alzheimer Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC) performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of late-onset Alzheimer disease (LOAD) using a 3 stage design consisting of a discovery stage (Stage 1) and two replication stages (Stages 2 and 3). Both joint and meta-analysis analysis approaches were used. We obtained genome-wide significant results at MS4A4A [rs4938933; Stages 1+2, meta-analysis (PM) = 1.7 × 10−9, joint analysis (PJ) = 1.7 × 10−9; Stages 1–3, PM = 8.2 × 10−12], CD2AP (rs9349407; Stages 1–3, PM = 8.6 × 10−9), EPHA1 (rs11767557; Stages 1–3 PM = 6.0 × 10−10), and CD33 (rs3865444; Stages 1–3, PM = 1.6 × 10−9). We confirmed that CR1 (rs6701713; PM = 4.6×10−10, PJ = 5.2×10−11), CLU (rs1532278; PM = 8.3 × 10−8, PJ = 1.9×10−8), BIN1 (rs7561528; PM = 4.0×10−14; PJ = 5.2×10−14), and PICALM (rs561655; PM = 7.0 × 10−11, PJ = 1.0×10−10) but not EXOC3L2 are LOAD risk loci1–3.
Harold et al. and Lambert et al. recently published two large genome-wide association studies of late onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) in which CLU, CR1, and PICALM were identified as novel LOAD genes.
To test for replication of the association between variants in the CLU, CR1 and PICALM genes with Alzheimer’s disease.
Case-control association study
Community-based ascertainment of patients seen at the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, FL and Rochester, MN, and autopsy-confirmed cases and controls whose pathology was evaluated at the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville. Additional samples were obtained from the National Cell Repository for Alzheimer’s Disease (NCRAD).
LOAD case-control series of European descent consisting of 1,829 LOAD cases and 2,576 controls
Main Outcome Measure
Clinical or pathology-confirmed diagnosis of LOAD
In our follow-up study of 1,829 LOAD cases and 2,576 controls, the most significant SNPs in CLU (rs11136000), CR1 (rs3818361), and PICALM (rs3851179) were tested for allelic association and gave ORs of 0.82, 1.15, and 0.80 respectively that were comparable in direction and magnitude to those originally reported with p values of 8.6×10−5, 0.014, and 1.3×10−5 that were significant even after Bonferroni correction for 3 SNPs tested.
These results showing near perfect replication provide the first additional evidence that CLU, CR1, and PICALM are LOAD genes.
A recently published genome-wide association study (GWAS) of late-onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD) revealed genome-wide significant association of variants in or near MS4A4A, CD2AP, EPHA1 and CD33. Meta-analyses of this and a previously published GWAS revealed significant association at ABCA7 and MS4A, independent evidence for association of CD2AP, CD33 and EPHA1 and an opposing yet significant association of a variant near ARID5B. In this study, we genotyped five variants (in or near CD2AP, EPHA1, ARID5B, and CD33) in a large (2,634 LOAD, 4,201 controls), independent dataset comprising six case-control series from the USA and Europe. We performed meta-analyses of the association of these variants with LOAD and tested for association using logistic regression adjusted by age-at-diagnosis, gender, and APOE ε4 dosage.
We found no significant evidence of series heterogeneity. Associations with LOAD were successfully replicated for EPHA1 (rs11767557; OR = 0.87, p = 5 × 10-4) and CD33 (rs3865444; OR = 0.92, p = 0.049), with odds ratios comparable to those previously reported. Although the two ARID5B variants (rs2588969 and rs494288) showed significant association with LOAD in meta-analysis of our dataset (p = 0.046 and 0.008, respectively), the associations did not survive adjustment for covariates (p = 0.30 and 0.11, respectively). We had insufficient evidence in our data to support the association of the CD2AP variant (rs9349407, p = 0.56).
Our data overwhelmingly support the association of EPHA1 and CD33 variants with LOAD risk: addition of our data to the results previously reported (total n > 42,000) increased the strength of evidence for these variants, providing impressive p-values of 2.1 × 10-15 (EPHA1) and 1.8 × 10-13 (CD33).
The insulin degrading enzyme (IDE) variant, v311 (rs6583817), is associated with increased post-mortem cerebellar IDE mRNA, decreased plasma β-amyloid (Aβ), decreased risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD) and increased reporter gene expression, suggesting that it is a functional variant driving increased IDE expression. To identify other functional IDE variants, we have tested v685, rs11187061 (associated with decreased cerebellar IDE mRNA) and variants on H6, the haplotype tagged by v311 (v10; rs4646958, v315; rs7895832, v687; rs17107734 and v154; rs4646957), for altered in vitro reporter gene expression. The reporter gene expression levels associated with the second most common haplotype (H2) successfully replicated the post-mortem findings in hepatocytoma (0.89 fold-change, p = 0.04) but not neuroblastoma cells. Successful in vitro replication was achieved for H6 in neuroblastoma cells when the sequence was cloned 5′ to the promoter (1.18 fold-change, p = 0.006) and 3′ to the reporter gene (1.29 fold change, p = 0.003), an effect contributed to by four variants (v10, v315, v154 and v311). Since IDE mediates Aβ degradation, variants that regulate IDE expression could represent good therapeutic targets for AD.
The 12 genome-wide association studies (GWAS) published to-date for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) have identified over 40 candidate LOAD risk modifiers, in addition to apolipoprotein (APOE) ε4. A few of these novel LOAD candidate genes, namely BIN1, CLU, CR1, EXOC3L2 and PICALM, have shown consistent replication, and are thus credible LOAD susceptibility genes. To evaluate other promising LOAD candidate genes, we have added data from our large, case–control series (n = 5,043) to meta-analyses of all published follow-up case–control association studies for six LOAD candidate genes that have shown significant association across multiple studies (TNK1, GAB2, LOC651924, GWA_14q32.13, PGBD1 and GALP) and for an additional nine previously suggested candidate genes. Meta-analyses remained significant at three loci after addition of our data: GAB2 (OR = 0.78, p = 0.007), LOC651924 (OR = 0.91, p = 0.01) and TNK1 (OR = 0.92, p = 0.02). Breslow–Day tests revealed significant heterogeneity between studies for GAB2 (p < 0.0001) and GWA_14q32.13 (p = 0.006). We have also provided suggestive evidence that PGBD1 (p = 0.04) and EBF3 (p = 0.03) are associated with age-at-onset of LOAD. Finally, we tested for interactions between these 15 genes, APOE ε4 and the five novel LOAD genes BIN1, CLU, CR1, EXOC3L2 and PICALM but none were significant after correction for multiple testing. Overall, this large, independent follow-up study for 15 of the top LOAD candidate genes provides support for GAB2 and LOC651924 (6q24.1) as risk modifiers of LOAD and novel associations between PGBD1 and EBF3 with age-at-onset.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00439-010-0924-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Late Onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD) is the leading cause of dementia. Recent large genome-wide association studies (GWAS) identified the first strongly supported LOAD susceptibility genes since the discovery of the involvement of APOE in the early 1990s. We have now exploited these GWAS datasets to uncover key LOAD pathophysiological processes.
We applied a recently developed tool for mining GWAS data for biologically meaningful information to a LOAD GWAS dataset. The principal findings were then tested in an independent GWAS dataset.
We found a significant overrepresentation of association signals in pathways related to cholesterol metabolism and the immune response in both of the two largest genome-wide association studies for LOAD.
Processes related to cholesterol metabolism and the innate immune response have previously been implicated by pathological and epidemiological studies of Alzheimer's disease, but it has been unclear whether those findings reflected primary aetiological events or consequences of the disease process. Our independent evidence from two large studies now demonstrates that these processes are aetiologically relevant, and suggests that they may be suitable targets for novel and existing therapeutic approaches.
By analyzing late onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD) in a genome wide association study (313,504 SNPs, 3 series, 844 cases/1,255 controls) and evaluating the 25 SNPs with most significant allelic association in 4 additional series (1,547 cases/1,209 controls), we identified a SNP (rs5984894) on Xq21.3 in PCDH11X that is strongly associated with LOAD in American Caucasians. Analysis of rs5984894 by multivariable logistic regression adjusted for sex gave global P values of 5.7×10-5 in stage I, 4.8×10-6 in stage II, and 3.9×10-12 in the combined data. Odds ratios were 1.75 (95% CI 1.42-2.16) for female homozygotes (P=2.0×10-7) and 1.26 (95% CI 1.05-1.51) for female heterozygotes (P=0.01) compared to female non-carriers. For male hemizygotes (P=0.07) compared to male non-carriers the odds ratio was 1.18 (95% CI 0.99-1.41).
We undertook a two-stage genome-wide association study of Alzheimer's disease involving over 16,000 individuals. In stage 1 (3,941 cases and 7,848 controls), we replicated the established association with the APOE locus (most significant SNP: rs2075650, p= 1.8×10−157) and observed genome-wide significant association with SNPs at two novel loci: rs11136000 in the CLU or APOJ gene (p= 1.4×10−9) and rs3851179, a SNP 5′ to the PICALM gene (p= 1.9×10−8). Both novel associations were supported in stage 2 (2,023 cases and 2,340 controls), producing compelling evidence for association with AD in the combined dataset (rs11136000: p= 8.5×10−10, odds ratio= 0.86; rs3851179: p= 1.3×10−9, odds ratio= 0.86). We also observed more variants associated at p< 1×10−5 than expected by chance (p=7.5×10−6), including polymorphisms at the BIN1, DAB1 and CR1 loci.
The insulin-degrading enzyme gene (IDE) is a strong functional and positional candidate for late onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD).
We examined conserved regions of IDE and its 10 kb flanks in 269 AD cases and 252 controls thereby identifying 17 putative functional polymorphisms. These variants formed eleven haplotypes that were tagged with ten variants. Four of these showed significant association with IDE transcript levels in samples from 194 LOAD cerebella. The strongest, rs6583817, which has not previously been reported, showed unequivocal association (p = 1.5×10−8, fold-increase = 2.12,); the eleven haplotypes were also significantly associated with transcript levels (global p = 0.003). Using an in vitro dual luciferase reporter assay, we found that rs6583817 increases reporter gene expression in Be(2)-C (p = 0.006) and HepG2 (p = 0.02) cell lines. Furthermore, using data from a recent genome-wide association study of two Croatian isolated populations (n = 1,879), we identified a proxy for rs6583817 that associated significantly with decreased plasma Aβ40 levels (ß = −0.124, p = 0.011) and total measured plasma Aβ levels (b = −0.130, p = 0.009). Finally, rs6583817 was associated with decreased risk of LOAD in 3,891 AD cases and 3,605 controls. (OR = 0.87, p = 0.03), and the eleven IDE haplotypes (global p = 0.02) also showed significant association.
Thus, a previously unreported variant unequivocally associated with increased IDE expression was also associated with reduced plasma Aß40 and decreased LOAD susceptibility. Genetic association between LOAD and IDE has been difficult to replicate. Our findings suggest that targeted testing of expression SNPs (eSNPs) strongly associated with altered transcript levels in autopsy brain samples may be a powerful way to identify genetic associations with LOAD that would otherwise be difficult to detect.