Dissociable influences of APOE ε4 and polygenic risk of AD dementia on amyloid and cognition

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Abstract

Objective

To investigate the effects of genetic risk of Alzheimer disease (AD) dementia in the context of β-amyloid (Aβ) accumulation.

Methods

We analyzed data from 702 participants (221 clinically normal, 367 with mild cognitive impairment, and 114 with AD dementia) with genetic data and florbetapir PET available. A subset of 669 participants additionally had longitudinal MRI scans to assess hippocampal volume. Polygenic risk scores (PRSs) were estimated with summary statistics from previous large-scale genome-wide association studies of AD dementia. We examined relationships between APOE ε4 status and PRS with longitudinal Aβ and cognitive and hippocampal volume measurements.

Results

APOE ε4 was strongly related to baseline Aβ, whereas only weak associations between PRS and baseline Aβ were present. APOE ε4 was additionally related to greater memory decline and hippocampal atrophy in Aβ+ participants. When APOE ε4 was controlled for, PRS was related to cognitive decline in Aβ+ participants. Finally, PRSs were associated with hippocampal atrophy in Aβ− participants and weakly associated with baseline hippocampal volume in Aβ+ participants.

Conclusions

Genetic risk factors of AD dementia demonstrate effects related to Aβ, as well as synergistic interactions with Aβ. The specific effect of faster cognitive decline in Aβ+ individuals with higher genetic risk may explain the large degree of heterogeneity in cognitive trajectories among Aβ+ individuals. Consideration of genetic variants in conjunction with baseline Aβ may improve enrichment strategies for clinical trials targeting Aβ+ individuals most at risk for imminent cognitive decline.

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