The apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotype is the major genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). We have access to cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and plasma APOE protein levels from 641 individuals and genome-wide genotyped data from 570 of these samples. The aim of this study was to test whether CSF or plasma APOE levels could be a useful endophenotype for AD and to identify genetic variants associated with APOE levels. We found that CSF (P = 8.15 × 10−4) but not plasma (P = 0.071) APOE protein levels are significantly associated with CSF Aβ42 levels. We used Mendelian randomization and genetic variants as instrumental variables to confirm that the association of CSF APOE with CSF Aβ42 levels and clinical dementia rating (CDR) is not because of a reverse causation or confounding effect. In addition the association of CSF APOE with Aβ42 levels was independent of the APOE ɛ4 genotype, suggesting that APOE levels in CSF may be a useful endophenotype for AD. We performed a genome-wide association study to identify genetic variants associated with CSF APOE levels: the APOE ɛ4 genotype was the strongest single-genetic factor associated with CSF APOE protein levels (P = 6.9 × 10−13). In aggregate, the Illumina chip single nucleotide polymorphisms explain 72% of the variability in CSF APOE protein levels, whereas the APOE ɛ4 genotype alone explains 8% of the variability. No other genetic variant reached the genome-wide significance threshold, but nine additional variants exhibited a P-value <10−6. Pathway mining analysis indicated that these nine additional loci are involved in lipid metabolism (P = 4.49 × 10−9).
Homozygous loss-of-function mutations in TREM2, encoding the triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 protein, have previously been associated with an autosomal recessive form of early-onset dementia.
We used genome, exome, and Sanger sequencing to analyze the genetic variability in TREM2 in a series of 1092 patients with Alzheimer's disease and 1107 controls (the discovery set). We then performed a meta-analysis on imputed data for the TREM2 variant rs75932628 (predicted to cause a R47H substitution) from three genomewide association studies of Alzheimer's disease and tested for the association of the variant with disease. We genotyped the R47H variant in an additional 1887 cases and 4061 controls. We then assayed the expression of TREM2 across different regions of the human brain and identified genes that are differentially expressed in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease and in control mice.
We found significantly more variants in exon 2 of TREM2 in patients with Alzheimer's disease than in controls in the discovery set (P = 0.02). There were 22 variant alleles in 1092 patients with Alzheimer's disease and 5 variant alleles in 1107 controls (P<0.001). The most commonly associated variant, rs75932628 (encoding R47H), showed highly significant association with Alzheimer's disease (P<0.001). Meta-analysis of rs75932628 genotypes imputed from genomewide association studies confirmed this association (P = 0.002), as did direct genotyping of an additional series of 1887 patients with Alzheimer's disease and 4061 controls (P<0.001). Trem2 expression differed between control mice and a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease.
Heterozygous rare variants in TREM2 are associated with a significant increase in the risk of Alzheimer's disease. (Funded by Alzheimer's Research UK and others.)
HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) remain prevalent but challenging to diagnose particularly among non-demented individuals. To determine whether a brief computerized battery correlates with formal neurocognitive testing, we identified 46 HIV-infected persons who had undergone both formal neurocognitive testing and a brief computerized battery. Simple detection tests correlated best with formal neuropsychological testing. By multivariable regression model, 53% of the variance in the composite Global Deficit Score was accounted for by elements from the brief computerized tool (p<0.01). These data confirm previous correlation data with the computerized battery, yet illustrate remaining challenges for neurocognitive screening.
Apolipoprotein E (APOE) is the most statistically significant genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD). The linkage disequilibrium pattern around the APOE gene has made it difficult to determine whether all of the association signal is derived from APOE or if there is an independent signal from a nearby gene. In this study we attempted to replicate a recently reported association of APOE 3-TOMM40 haplotypes with risk and age at onset.
We used standard techniques to genotype several polymorphisms in the APOE-TOMM40 region in a large case-control series, in a series with cerebrospinal fluid biomarker data and in brain tissue.
We failed to replicate the previously reported association of the polyT polymorphism (rs10524523) with risk and age at onset. We found a significant association between rs10524523 and risk for LOAD among APOE 33 homozygotes but in the opposite direction to the previously reported association (the very-long allele was underrepresented in cases compared to controls in our study (allele frequency: 0.41 vs. 0.48 respectively; p=0.004)). We found no association between rs10524523 and CSF tau or Aβ42 levels or TOMM40 or APOE gene expression.
Although we were not able to replicate the earlier association between the APOE 3-TOMM40 haplotypes and age at onset, we did observe that the polyT polymorphism is associated with risk for LOAD among APOE 33 homozygotes in a large case-control series, but in the opposite direction to the previous report. Additional studies in very large samples will be needed to confirm this association.
Mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN) are causative for Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration with ubiquitin-immunoreactive neuronal inclusions (FTLD-U). However, additional studies have demonstrated that these variants could be associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD). The influence of GRN genetic variability on susceptibility to AD and on expression levels in a series of neuropathologically-confirmed AD patients as well as in Peripheral Mononuclear Cells (PBMC) and in cells isolated from cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) was investigated. An association study of rs9897526 and rs5848 was carried out in an Italian population and in a replication population of European American patients and controls.
None of the variants tested act as unequivocal susceptibility factor in both populations although a tendency to an increased frequency of rs5848T allele was observed in the Italian group of AD patients. Furthermore, rs9897526 anticipated the onset of the disease in the Italian population. GRN expression in the parietal lobe of AD cases showed a 0.76-fold decrease compared with controls (1.31±0.07 versus 1.73±0.12, P=0.0025). Patients carrying the rs5848 TT genotype had the lowest GRN expression levels (0.96±0.12, P=0.014). Despite no significant differences were found in the relative PBMC and CSF GRN expression in patients compared to controls, stratifying patients according to the presence of rs5848 T allele, a 0.57-fold decrease in GRN mRNA levels over C carriers was found in PBMC (1.22±0.23 versus 0.70±0.12, P=0.04). Similarly to data obtained in brain samples, patients carrying the TT genotype showed the lowest GRN mRNA levels (TT= 0.46±0.14, CC=1.22±0.23; P=0.013). These data argue against a direct role of GRN as a susceptibility factor for sporadic AD but support a role of GRN as a disease-modifying gene, possibly contributing to the failure of neuronal survival.
Alzheimer's Disease (AD); Progranulin (GRN); Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP); Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF); Peripheral Mononuclear Cells (PBMC)
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a clinical term encompassing dementia characterized by the presence of two major phenotypes: 1) behavioral and personality disorder, and 2) language disorder, which includes primary progressive aphasia and semantic dementia. Recently, the gene for familial frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) with ubiquitin-positive, tau-negative inclusions (FTLD-U) linked to chromosome 17 was cloned. In the present study, 62 unrelated patients from the Washington University Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and the Midwest Consortium for FTD with clinically diagnosed FTD and/or neuropathologically characterized cases of FTLD-U with or without motor neuron disease (MND) were screened for mutations in the progranulin gene (GRN; also PGRN). We discovered two pathogenic mutations in four families: 1) a single-base substitution within the 3′ splice acceptor site of intron 6/exon 7 (g.5913A>G [IVS6–2A>G]) causing skipping of exon 7 and premature termination of the coding sequence (PTC); and 2) a missense mutation in exon 1 (g.4068C>A) introducing a charged amino acid in the hydrophobic core of the signal peptide at residue 9 (p.A9D). Functional analysis in mutation carriers for the splice acceptor site mutation revealed a 50% decrease in GRN mRNA and protein levels, supporting haploinsufficiency. In contrast, there was no significant difference in the total GRN mRNA between cases and controls carrying the p.A9D mutation. Further, subcellular fractionation and confocal microscopy indicate that although the mutant protein is expressed, it is not secreted, and appears to be trapped within an intracellular compartment, possibly resulting in a functional haploinsufficiency.
Frontotemporal dementia; FTD; granulin; progranulin; GRN; PGRN
Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology is associated with two proteins, the microtubule-binding protein tau and the amyloid-precursor protein (APP). When tau becomes hyperphosphorylated, it forms neuritic aggregates, called neurofibrillary tangles. APP is cleaved by several enzymes to generate Aβ peptides, which are - depending on their length - more or less amyloidogenic and form senile plaques. Pin1, a peptidyl-propyl cis/trans-isomerase, seems to be involved in both pathologies. Pin1 may facilitate dephosphorylation of tau by PP2A phosphatase, while cellular overexpression of Pin1 causes a reduction in the amyloidogenic processing of APP, making this enzyme an interesting target for pharmaceutical intervention. The gene encoding Pin1 maps to 19p13.2, a region previously linked to LOAD. Therefore Pin1 is an excellent positional and functional candidate for LOAD. In this study, we investigated whether common SNPs in Pin1 can influence the risk for developing late-Onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD). No association was observed with any of six polymorphisms or their resulting haplotypes. A meta-analysis of two promoter SNPs, which combined the data from this study with two previous ones, did not show any association either suggesting that common SNPs in Pin1 do not increase the risk for LOAD.
Pin1; late-onset Alzheimer's disease; genotyping
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a complex disorder influenced by environmental and genetic factors. Recent work has identified 11 AD markers in 10 loci. We used Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis to analyze >2 million SNPs for 10,922 individuals from the Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Consortium to assess the phenotypic variance explained first by known late-onset AD loci, and then by all SNPs in the Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Consortium dataset. In all, 33% of total phenotypic variance is explained by all common SNPs. APOE alone explained 6% and other known markers 2%, meaning more than 25% of phenotypic variance remains unexplained by known markers, but is tagged by common SNPs included on genotyping arrays or imputed with HapMap genotypes. Novel AD markers that explain large amounts of phenotypic variance are likely to be rare and unidentifiable using genome-wide association studies. Based on our findings and the current direction of human genetics research, we suggest specific study designs for future studies to identify the remaining heritability of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an international health concern that has a devastating effect on patients and families. While several genetic risk factors for AD have been identified much of the genetic variance in AD remains unexplained. There are limited published assessments of the familiality of Alzheimer’s disease. Here we present the largest genealogy-based analysis of AD to date.
We assessed the familiality of AD in The Utah Population Database (UPDB), a population-based resource linking electronic health data repositories for the state with the computerized genealogy of the Utah settlers and their descendants. We searched UPDB for significant familial clustering of AD to evaluate the genetic contribution to disease. We compared the Genealogical Index of Familiality (GIF) between AD individuals and randomly selected controls and estimated the Relative Risk (RR) for a range of family relationships. Finally, we identified pedigrees with a significant excess of AD deaths.
The GIF analysis showed that pairs of individuals dying from AD were significantly more related than expected. This excess of relatedness was observed for both close and distant relationships. RRs for death from AD among relatives of individuals dying from AD were significantly increased for both close and more distant relatives. Multiple pedigrees had a significant excess of AD deaths.
These data strongly support a genetic contribution to the observed clustering of individuals dying from AD. This report is the first large population-based assessment of the familiality of AD mortality and provides the only reported estimates of relative risk of AD mortality in extended relatives to date. The high-risk pedigrees identified show a true excess of AD mortality (not just multiple cases) and are greater in depth and width than published AD pedigrees. The presence of these high-risk pedigrees strongly supports the possibility of rare predisposition variants not yet identified.
Various studies have suggested that the mitochondrial genome plays a role in late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, although results are mixed. We used an endophenotype-based approach to further characterize mitochondrial genetic variation and its relationship to risk markers for Alzheimer’s disease. We analyzed longitudinal data from non-demented, mild cognitive impairment, and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease participants in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative with genetic, brain imaging, and behavioral data. We assessed the relationship of structural MRI and cognitive biomarkers with mitochondrial genome variation using TreeScanning, a haplotype-based approach that concentrates statistical power by analyzing evolutionarily meaningful groups (or clades) of haplotypes together for association with a phenotype. Four clades were associated with three different endophenotypes: whole brain volume, percent change in temporal pole thickness, and left hippocampal atrophy over two years. This is the first study of its kind to identify mitochondrial variation associated with brain imaging endophenotypes of Alzheimer’s disease. Our results provide additional evidence that the mitochondrial genome plays a role in risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and is the only top 10 cause of death in the United States that lacks disease-altering treatments. It is a complex disorder with environmental and genetic components. There are two major types of Alzheimer's disease, early onset and the more common late onset. The genetics of early-onset Alzheimer's disease are largely understood with variants in three different genes leading to disease. In contrast, while several common alleles associated with late-onset Alzheimer's disease, including APOE, have been identified using association studies, the genetics of late-onset Alzheimer's disease are not fully understood. Here we review the known genetics of early- and late-onset Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia and AD risk clusters within families. Part of the familial aggregation of AD is accounted for by excess maternal vs. paternal inheritance, a pattern consistent with mitochondrial inheritance. The role of specific mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variants and haplogroups in AD risk is uncertain.
We determined the complete mitochondrial genome sequence of 1007 participants in the Cache County Study on Memory in Aging, a population-based prospective cohort study of dementia in northern Utah. AD diagnoses were made with a multi-stage protocol that included clinical examination and review by a panel of clinical experts. We used TreeScanning, a statistically robust approach based on haplotype networks, to analyze the mtDNA sequence data. Participants with major mitochondrial haplotypes H6A1A and H6A1B showed a reduced risk of AD (p = 0.017, corrected for multiple comparisons). The protective haplotypes were defined by three variants: m.3915G>A, m.4727A>G, and m.9380G>A. These three variants characterize two different major haplogroups. Together m.4727A>G and m.9380G>A define H6A1, and it has been suggested m.3915G>A defines H6A. Additional variants differentiate H6A1A and H6A1B; however, none of these variants had a significant relationship with AD case-control status.
Our findings provide evidence of a reduced risk of AD for individuals with mtDNA haplotypes H6A1A and H6A1B. These findings are the results of the largest study to date with complete mtDNA genome sequence data, yet the functional significance of the associated haplotypes remains unknown and replication in others studies is necessary.
Recent genome-wide association studies of Alzheimer's disease (AD) have identified variants in BIN1, CLU, CR1 and PICALM that show replicable association with risk for disease. We have thoroughly sampled common variation in these genes, genotyping 355 variants in over 600 individuals for whom measurements of two AD biomarkers, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) 42 amino acid amyloid beta fragments (Aβ42) and tau phosphorylated at threonine 181 (ptau181), have been obtained. Association analyses were performed to determine whether variants in BIN1, CLU, CR1 or PICALM are associated with changes in the CSF levels of these biomarkers. Despite adequate power to detect effects as small as a 1.05 fold difference, we have failed to detect evidence for association between SNPs in these genes and CSF Aβ42 or ptau181 levels in our sample. Our results suggest that these variants do not affect risk via a mechanism that results in a strong additive effect on CSF levels of Aβ42 or ptau181.
Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a complex and multifactorial disease. While large genome-wide association studies have had some success in identifying novel genetic risk factors for AD, case-control studies are less likely to uncover genetic factors that influence progression of disease. An alternative approach to identifying genetic risk for AD is the use of quantitative traits or endophenotypes. The use of endophenotypes has proven to be an effective strategy, implicating genetic risk factors in several diseases, including anemia, osteoporosis and heart disease. In this study we identify a genetic factor associated with the rate of decline in AD patients and present a methodology for identification of other such factors. We have used an established biomarker for AD, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tau phosphorylated at threonine 181 (ptau181) levels as an endophenotype for AD, identifying a SNP, rs1868402, in the gene encoding the regulatory sub-unit of protein phosphatase B, associated with CSF ptau181 levels in two independent CSF series . We show no association of rs1868402 with risk for AD or age at onset, but detected a very significant association with rate of progression of disease that is consistent in two independent series . Our analyses suggest that genetic variants associated with CSF ptau181 levels may have a greater impact on rate of progression, while genetic variants such as APOE4, that are associated with CSF Aβ42 levels influence risk and onset but not the rate of progression. Our results also suggest that drugs that inhibit or decrease tau phosphorylation may slow cognitive decline in individuals with very mild dementia or delay the appearance of memory problems in elderly individuals with low CSF Aβ42 levels. Finally, we believe genome-wide association studies of CSF tau/ptau181 levels should identify novel genetic variants which will likely influence rate of progression of AD.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common neurodegenerative disease affecting more than 4.5 million people in the US. Genetic studies of AD have previously identified pathogenic mutations in three genes (APP, PSEN1 and PSEN2) and polymorphisms in APOE as risk factors. These findings have led to a better understanding of the underlying disease mechanisms. However, half of all AD cases have no known genetic risk factors for disease. Most studies are designed to identify variants associated with risk or age at onset, but rarely cover other important facets of AD, such as disease progression or duration. In this study we have used an established AD biomarker (cerebrospinal fluid tau phosphorylated at threonine 181, ptau181) to find genetic variants that influence levels of ptau181 in the cerebrospinal fluid. This novel and powerful approach has allowed us to identify a genetic factor located in the regulatory subunit of the calcineurin that is also strongly associated with rate of progression of AD. This study is important because it defines a strategy to find novel genetic factors influencing different facets of AD pathobiology including risk, onset and progression.
Familial autosomal dominant frontotemporal dementia with ubiquitin-positive, tau-negative inclusions in the brain linked to 17q21-22 recently has been reported to carry null mutations in the progranulin gene (PGRN). Hereditary dysphasic disinhibition dementia (HDDD) is a frontotemporal dementia with prominent changes in behavior and language deficits. A previous study found significant linkage to chromosome 17 in a HDDD family (HDDD2), but no mutation in the MAPT gene. Longitudinal follow-up has enabled us to identify new cases and to further characterize the dementia in this family. The goals of this study were to develop research criteria to classify the different clinical expressions of dementia observed in this large kindred, to identify the causal mutation in affected individuals and correlate this with phenotypic characteristics in this pedigree, and to assess the neuropathological characteristics using immunohistochemical techniques.
In this study we describe a detailed clinical, pathological and mutation analysis of the HDDD2 kindred.
Neuropathologically, HDDD2 represents a familial frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin-positive, tau-negative inclusions (FTLD-U). We developed research classification criteria and identified three distinct diagnostic thresholds, which helped localize the disease locus. The chromosomal region with the strongest evidence of linkage lies within the minimum critical region for FTLD-U. Sequencing of each exon of the PGRN gene led to the identification of a novel missense mutation, Ala-9 Asp, within the signal peptide.
HDDD2 is an FTLD-U caused by a missense mutation in the PGRN gene that cosegregates with the disease and with the disease haplotype in at-risk individuals. This mutation is the first reported pathogenic missense mutation in the signal peptide of the PGRN gene causing FTLD-U. In light of the previous reports of null mutations and its position in the gene, two possible pathological mechanisms are proposed: (1) the protein may accumulate within the endoplasmic reticulum due to inefficient secretion; and (2) mutant RNA may have a lower expression because of degradation via nonsense-mediated decay.
The use of quantitative endophenotypes in genetic studies may provide greater power, allowing for the use of powerful statistical methods and a biological model for the effects of the disease-associated genetic variation. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) amyloid beta (Aβ) levels are promising endophenotypes for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) and show correlation with LOAD status and Aβ deposition. In this study, we investigated 29 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) positive in AlzGene (http://www.alzgene.org) meta-analyses, for association with CSF Aβ levels in 313 individuals. This study design makes it possible to replicate reported LOAD risk alleles while contributing novel information about the mechanism by which they might affect that risk. Alleles in ACE, APOE, BDNF, DAPK1, and TF are significantly associated with CSF Aβ levels. In vitro analysis of the TF SNP showed a change in secreted Aβ consistent with the CSF phenotype and known Alzheimer’s disease variants, demonstrating the utility of this approach in identifying SNPs that influence risk for disease via an Aβ-related mechanism.
Amyloid beta; Alzheimer’s disease; Genetics; Association; Transferrin