Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS), conducted by our group and others, have identified loci that harbor risk variants for neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease (AD). Human disease variants are enriched for polymorphisms that affect gene expression, including some that are known to associate with expression changes in the brain. Postulating that many variants confer risk to neurodegenerative disease via transcriptional regulatory mechanisms, we have analyzed gene expression levels in the brain tissue of subjects with AD and related diseases. Herein, we describe our collective datasets comprised of GWAS data from 2,099 subjects; microarray gene expression data from 773 brain samples, 186 of which also have RNAseq; and an independent cohort of 556 brain samples with RNAseq. We expect that these datasets, which are available to all qualified researchers, will enable investigators to explore and identify transcriptional mechanisms contributing to neurodegenerative diseases.
Neurodegeneration; Genetics of the nervous system; Genome-wide association studies; RNA sequencing
In Alzheimer's disease (AD), the accumulation and deposition of amyloid-β (Aβ) peptides in the brain is a central event. Aβ is cleaved from amyloid precursor protein (APP) by β-secretase and γ-secretase mainly in neurons. Although mutations in APP, PS1, or PS2 cause early-onset familial AD, ABCA7 encoding ATP-binding cassette transporter A7 is one of the susceptibility genes for late-onset AD (LOAD), in which its loss-of-function variants increase the disease risk. ABCA7 is homologous to a major lipid transporter ABCA1 and is highly expressed in neurons and microglia in the brain. Here, we show that ABCA7 deficiency altered brain lipid profile and impaired memory in ABCA7 knock-out (Abca7−/−) mice. When bred to amyloid model APP/PS1 mice, plaque burden was exacerbated by ABCA7 deficit. In vivo microdialysis studies indicated that the clearance rate of Aβ was unaltered. Interestingly, ABCA7 deletion facilitated the processing of APP to Aβ by increasing the levels of β-site APP cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1) and sterol regulatory element-binding protein 2 (SREBP2) in primary neurons and mouse brains. Knock-down of ABCA7 expression in neurons caused endoplasmic reticulum stress highlighted by increased level of protein kinase R-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK) and increased phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor 2α (eIF2α). In the brains of APP/PS1;Abca7−/− mice, the level of phosphorylated extracellular regulated kinase (ERK) was also significantly elevated. Together, our results reveal novel pathways underlying the association of ABCA7 dysfunction and LOAD pathogenesis.
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Gene variants in ABCA7 encoding ATP-binding cassette transporter A7 are associated with the increased risk for late-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD). Importantly, we found the altered brain lipid profile and impaired memory in ABCA7 knock-out mice. The accumulation of amyloid-β (Aβ) peptides cleaved from amyloid precursor protein (APP) in the brain is a key event in AD pathogenesis and we also found that ABCA7 deficit exacerbated brain Aβ deposition in amyloid AD model APP/PS1 mice. Mechanistically, we found that ABCA7 deletion facilitated the processing of APP and Aβ production by increasing the levels of β-secretase 1 (BACE1) in primary neurons and mouse brains without affecting the Aβ clearance rate in APP/PS1 mice. Our study demonstrates a novel mechanism underlying how dysfunctions of ABCA7 contribute to the risk for AD.
ABCA7; APP; BACE1; cognitive function; lipid homeostasis; neuron
The genetics underlying posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), typically a rare variant of Alzheimer's disease (AD), remain uncertain.
We genotyped 302 PCA patients from 11 centers, calculated risk at 24 loci for AD/DLB and performed an exploratory genome-wide association study.
We confirm that variation in/near APOE/TOMM40 (P = 6 × 10−14) alters PCA risk, but with smaller effect than for typical AD (PCA: odds ratio [OR] = 2.03, typical AD: OR = 2.83, P = .0007). We found evidence for risk in/near CR1 (P = 7 × 10−4), ABCA7 (P = .02) and BIN1 (P = .04). ORs at variants near INPP5D and NME8 did not overlap between PCA and typical AD. Exploratory genome-wide association studies confirmed APOE and identified three novel loci: rs76854344 near CNTNAP5 (P = 8 × 10−10 OR = 1.9 [1.5–2.3]); rs72907046 near FAM46A (P = 1 × 10−9 OR = 3.2 [2.1–4.9]); and rs2525776 near SEMA3C (P = 1 × 10−8, OR = 3.3 [2.1–5.1]).
We provide evidence for genetic risk factors specifically related to PCA. We identify three candidate loci that, if replicated, may provide insights into selective vulnerability and phenotypic diversity in AD.
Posterior cortical atrophy; Alzheimer's disease; Genetics; GWAS; Selective vulnerability; APOE
Late–onset Alzheimer's disease (AD) is heritable with 20 genes showing genome wide association in the International Genomics of Alzheimer's Project (IGAP). To identify the biology underlying the disease we extended these genetic data in a pathway analysis.
The ALIGATOR and GSEA algorithms were used in the IGAP data to identify associated functional pathways and correlated gene expression networks in human brain.
ALIGATOR identified an excess of curated biological pathways showing enrichment of association. Enriched areas of biology included the immune response (p = 3.27×10-12 after multiple testing correction for pathways), regulation of endocytosis (p = 1.31×10-11), cholesterol transport (p = 2.96 × 10-9) and proteasome-ubiquitin activity (p = 1.34×10-6). Correlated gene expression analysis identified four significant network modules, all related to the immune response (corrected p 0.002 – 0.05).
The immune response, regulation of endocytosis, cholesterol transport and protein ubiquitination represent prime targets for AD therapeutics.
Alzheimer's disease; dementia; neurodegeneration; immune response; endocytosis; cholesterol metabolism; uniquitination; pathway analysis; ALIGATOR; Weighted gene coexpression network analysis
Increasing evidence suggests epidemiological and pathological links between Alzheimer's disease (AD) and ischemic stroke (IS). We investigated the evidence that shared genetic factors underpin the two diseases.
Using genome‐wide association study (GWAS) data from METASTROKE + (15,916 IS cases and 68,826 controls) and the International Genomics of Alzheimer's Project (IGAP; 17,008 AD cases and 37,154 controls), we evaluated known associations with AD and IS. On the subset of data for which we could obtain compatible genotype‐level data (4,610 IS cases, 1,281 AD cases, and 14,320 controls), we estimated the genome‐wide genetic correlation (rG) between AD and IS, and the three subtypes (cardioembolic, small vessel, and large vessel), using genome‐wide single‐nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data. We then performed a meta‐analysis and pathway analysis in the combined AD and small vessel stroke data sets to identify the SNPs and molecular pathways through which disease risk may be conferred.
We found evidence of a shared genetic contribution between AD and small vessel stroke (rG [standard error] = 0.37 [0.17]; p = 0.011). Conversely, there was no evidence to support shared genetic factors in AD and IS overall or with the other stroke subtypes. Of the known GWAS associations with IS or AD, none reached significance for association with the other trait (or stroke subtypes). A meta‐analysis of AD IGAP and METASTROKE + small vessel stroke GWAS data highlighted a region (ATP5H/KCTD2/ICT1) associated with both diseases (p = 1.8 × 10−8). A pathway analysis identified four associated pathways involving cholesterol transport and immune response.
Our findings indicate shared genetic susceptibility to AD and small vessel stroke and highlight potential causal pathways and loci. Ann Neurol 2016;79:739–747
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of late-onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD) identified risk variants. We assessed the association of nine variants with memory and progression to mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or LOAD (MCI/LOAD).
Older Caucasians, cognitively normal at baseline and longitudinally evaluated at Mayo Clinic Rochester and Jacksonville, were assessed for associations of genetic variants with memory decline (n=2,262) using linear mixed models and for incident MCI/LOAD (n=2,674) with Cox proportional hazards models. Each variant was tested both individually and collectively using a single weighted risk score.
APOE-ε4 was significantly associated with worse memory at baseline (β=-0.88, p=2.78E-03) and increased rate of 5-year decline (β=-1.43, p=3.71E-06) with highly significant overall effect on memory (p=3.88E-09). CLU-locus risk allele rs11136000-G was associated with worse memory at baseline (β=-0.51, p=0.012), but not with increased rate of decline. CLU allele was also associated with incident MCI/LOAD (hazard ratio=HR=1.14, p=0.049) in sensitivity analysis. MS4A6A-locus risk allele rs610932-C was associated with increased incident MCI/LOAD in primary analysis (HR=1.17, p=0.016) and had suggestive association with lower baseline memory (β=-0.35, p=0.08). PICALM-locus risk allele rs3851179-G had nominally significant HR in both primary and sensitivity analysis, but with a protective estimate. LOAD risk alleles ABCA7-rs3764650-C and EPHA1-rs11767557-A associated with increased rates of memory decline in the subset of subjects with a final diagnosis of MCI/LOAD. Risk scores excluding APOE were not significant, whereas APOE-inclusive risk scores associated with worse memory and incident MCI/LOAD.
The collective influence of the nine top LOAD GWAS variants on memory decline and progression to MCI/LOAD appears limited. Given the significant associations observed with APOE-ε4, discovery of the biologically functional variants at these loci may uncover stronger effects on memory and incident disease.
Alzheimer's disease; memory; mild cognitive impairment; genetic risk; association; cognitive decline
We propose a minimal protocol for exhaustive genome-wide association interaction analysis that involves screening for epistasis over large-scale genomic data combining strengths of different methods and statistical tools. The different steps of this protocol are illustrated on a real-life data application for Alzheimer's disease (AD) (2259 patients and 6017 controls from France). Particularly, in the exhaustive genome-wide epistasis screening we identified AD-associated interacting SNPs-pair from chromosome 6q11.1 (rs6455128, the KHDRBS2 gene) and 13q12.11 (rs7989332, the CRYL1 gene) (p = 0.006, corrected for multiple testing). A replication analysis in the independent AD cohort from Germany (555 patients and 824 controls) confirmed the discovered epistasis signal (p = 0.036). This signal was also supported by a meta-analysis approach in 5 independent AD cohorts that was applied in the context of epistasis for the first time. Transcriptome analysis revealed negative correlation between expression levels of KHDRBS2 and CRYL1 in both the temporal cortex (β = −0.19, p = 0.0006) and cerebellum (β = −0.23, p < 0.0001) brain regions. This is the first time a replicable epistasis associated with AD was identified using a hypothesis free screening approach.
GWAI; Epistasis; Replication; Alzheimer; Complex trait analysis
Hippocampal sclerosis of the elderly (HpScl) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), especially the limbic-predominant subtype (LP-AD), are amnestic syndromes that can be difficult to distinguish. To complicate matters, a subset has concomitant HpScl and AD (HpScl-AD). We examined a large cohort of autopsy-confirmed cases of HpScl, HpScl-AD, LP-AD, and typical AD to identify distinct clinical, Genetic, and pathologic characteristics. HpScl cases were significantly older at death and had a substantially slower rate of cognitive decline than the AD subtypes. Genetic analysis revealed that the AD groups (AD, LP-AD, and HpScl–AD) were more likely to be APOE ε4 carriers. In contrast, the HpScl groups (HpScl and HpScl-AD) were more likely to exhibit Genetic variants in GRN and TMEM106B that are associated with frontotemporal lobar degeneration. The HpScl groups had a high frequency of TDP-43 pathology that was most often Type A morphology and distribution, while typical AD and LP-AD had a significantly lower frequency of TDP-43 pathology that was most often Type B. These results suggest that HpScl and AD are pathologically and Genetically distinct and non-synergistic neurodegenerative processes that present with amnestic dementia. Pure HpScl and HpScl with concomitant AD occur most often in elderly individuals.
Hippocampal sclerosis; Alzheimer’s disease; Neuropathology; Neurofibrillary tangles; TDP-43; GRN; TMEM106B; APOE
To investigate the top late-onset Alzheimer disease (LOAD) risk loci detected or confirmed by the International Genomics of Alzheimer's Project for association with brain gene expression levels to identify variants that influence Alzheimer disease (AD) risk through gene expression regulation.
Expression levels from the cerebellum (CER) and temporal cortex (TCX) were obtained using Illumina whole-genome cDNA-mediated annealing, selection, extension, and ligation assay (WG-DASL) for ∼400 autopsied patients (∼200 with AD and ∼200 with non-AD pathologies). We tested 12 significant LOAD genome-wide association study (GWAS) index single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for cis association with levels of 34 genes within ±100 kb. We also evaluated brain levels of 14 LOAD GWAS candidate genes for association with 1,899 cis-SNPs. Significant associations were validated in a subset of TCX samples using next-generation RNA sequencing (RNAseq).
We identified strong associations of brain CR1, HLA-DRB1, and PILRB levels with LOAD GWAS index SNPs. We also detected other strong cis-SNPs for LOAD candidate genes MEF2C, ZCWPW1, and SLC24A4. MEF2C and SLC24A4, but not ZCWPW1 cis-SNPs, also associate with LOAD risk, independent of the index SNPs. The TCX expression associations could be validated with RNAseq for CR1, HLA-DRB1, ZCWPW1, and SLC24A4.
Our results suggest that some LOAD GWAS variants mark brain regulatory loci, nominate genes under regulation by LOAD risk variants, and annotate these variants for their brain regulatory effects.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in Parkinson’s disease (PD) have identified over 20 genomic regions associated with disease risk. Many of these loci include several candidate genes making it difficult to pinpoint the causal gene. The locus on chromosome 2q24.3 encompasses three genes: B3GALT1, STK39, and CERS6. In order to identify if the causal variants are simple missense changes, we sequenced all 31 exons of these three genes in 187 patients with PD. We identified 13 exonic variants including four non-synonymous and three insertion/deletion variants (indels). These non-synonymous variants and rs2102808, the GWAS tag SNP, were genotyped in three independent series consisting of a total of 1976 patients and 1596 controls. Our results show that the seven identified 2q24.3 coding variants are not independently responsible for the GWAS association signal at the locus; however, there is a haplotype, which contains both rs2102808 and a STK39 exon 1 6bp indel variant, that is significantly associated with PD risk (Odds Ratio [OR] = 1.35, 95% CI: 1.11–1.64, P = 0.003). This haplotype is more associated than each of the two variants independently (OR = 1.23, P = 0.005 and 1.10, P = 0.10, respectively). Our findings suggest that the risk variant is likely located in a non-coding region. Additional sequencing of the locus including promoter and regulatory regions will be needed to pinpoint the association at this locus that leads to an increased risk to PD.
To investigate association of genetic risk factors for late-onset Alzheimer disease (LOAD) with risk of posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), a syndrome of visual impairment with predominant Alzheimer disease (AD) pathology in posterior cortical regions, and with risk of “posterior AD” neuropathology.
We assessed 81 participants with PCA diagnosed clinically and 54 with neuropathologic diagnosis of posterior AD vs 2,523 controls for association with 11 significant single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from published LOAD risk genome-wide association studies.
There was highly significant association with APOE ε4 and increased risk of PCA (p = 0.0003, odds ratio [OR] = 3.17) and posterior AD (p = 1.11 × 10−17, OR = 6.43). No other locus was significant after corrections for multiple testing, although rs11136000 near CLU (p = 0.019, OR = 0.60) and rs744373 near BIN1 (p = 0.025, OR = 1. 63) associated nominally significantly with posterior AD, and rs3851179 at the PICALM locus had significant association with PCA (p = 0.0003, OR = 2.84). ABCA7 locus SNP rs3764650, which was also tested under the recessive model because of Hardy-Weinberg disequilibrium, also had nominally significant association with PCA risk. The direction of association at APOE, CLU, and BIN1 loci was the same for participants with PCA and posterior AD. The effects for all SNPs, except rs3851179, were consistent with those for LOAD risk.
We identified a significant effect for APOE and nominate CLU, BIN1, and ABCA7 as additional risk loci for PCA and posterior AD. Our findings suggest that at least some of the genetic risk factors for LOAD are shared with these atypical conditions and provide effect-size estimates for their future genetic studies.
TREM2 encodes for triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 and has rare, coding variants that associate with risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) in Caucasians of European and North-American origin. This study evaluated the role of TREM2 in LOAD risk in African-American (AA) subjects. We performed exonic sequencing and validation in two independent cohorts of >800 subjects. We selected six coding variants (p.R47H, p.R62H, p.D87N, p.E151K, p.W191X, and p.L211P) for case–control analyses in a total of 906 LOAD cases vs. 2,487 controls.
We identified significant LOAD risk association with p.L211P (p = 0.01, OR = 1.27, 95%CI = 1.05-1.54) and suggestive association with p.W191X (p = 0.08, OR = 1.35, 95%CI = 0.97-1.87). Conditional analysis suggests that p.L211P, which is in linkage disequilibrium with p.W191X, may be the stronger variant of the two, but does not rule out independent contribution of the latter. TREM2 p.L211P resides within the cytoplasmic domain and p.W191X is a stop-gain mutation within the shorter TREM-2V transcript. The coding variants within the extracellular domain of TREM2 previously shown to confer LOAD risk in Caucasians were extremely rare in our AA cohort and did not associate with LOAD risk.
Our findings suggest that TREM2 coding variants also confer LOAD risk in AA, but implicate variants within different regions of the gene than those identified for Caucasian subjects. These results underscore the importance of investigating different ethnic populations for disease risk variant discovery, which may uncover allelic heterogeneity with potentially diverse mechanisms of action.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13024-015-0016-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
LOAD; African-American; TREM2; Coding variants; Case–control
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder in which extracellular deposition of β-amyloid (Aβ) oligomers causes synaptic injury resulting in early memory loss, altered homeostasis, accumulation of hyperphosphorylated tau and cell death. Since proteins in the SNAP (Soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor Attachment Protein) REceptors (SNARE) complex are essential for neuronal Aβ release at pre-synaptic terminals, we hypothesized that genetically controlled SNARE expression could alter neuronal Aß release at the synapse and hence play an early role in Alzheimer’s pathophysiology.
Here we report 5 polymorphisms in Vesicle-Associated Membrane Protein 1 (VAMP1), a gene encoding a member of the SNARE complex, associated with bidirectionally altered cerebellar VAMP1 transcript levels (all p < 0.05). At the functional level, we demonstrated that control of VAMP1 expression by heterogeneous knockdown in mice resulted in up to 74% reduction in neuronal Aβ exocytosis (p < 0.001). We performed a case-control association study of the 5 VAMP1 expression regulating polymorphisms in 4,667 Alzheimer’s disease patients and 6,175 controls to determine their contribution to Alzheimer’s disease risk. We found that polymorphisms associated with increased brain VAMP1 transcript levels conferred higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease than those associated with lower VAMP1 transcript levels (p = 0.03). Moreover, we also report a modest protective association for a common VAMP1 polymorphism with Alzheimer’s disease risk (OR = 0.88, p = 0.03). This polymorphism was associated with decreased VAMP1 transcript levels (p = 0.02) and was functionally active in a dual luciferase reporter gene assay (p < 0.01).
Genetically regulated VAMP1 expression in the brain may modify both Alzheimer’s disease risk and may contribute to Alzheimer’s pathophysiology.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13024-015-0015-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
SNARE; Vesicle-Associated Membrane Protein 1; β-amyloid; Alzheimer’s disease; Synapse
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