Table_2_The Molecular and Neuropathological Consequences of Genetic Risk for Alzheimer's Dementia.xlsx

Alzheimer's dementia commonly impacts the health of older adults and lacks any preventative therapy. While Alzheimer's dementia risk has a substantial genetic component, the specific molecular mechanisms and neuropathologies triggered by most of the known genetic variants are unclear. Resultantly, they have shown limited influence on drug development portfolios to date. To facilitate our understanding of the consequences of Alzheimer's dementia susceptibility variants, we examined their relationship to a wide range of clinical, molecular and neuropathological features. Because the effect size of individual variants is typically small, we utilized a polygenic (overall) risk approach to identify the global impact of Alzheimer's dementia susceptibility variants. Under this approach, each individual has a polygenic risk score (PRS) that we related to clinical, molecular and neuropathological phenotypes. Applying this approach to 1,272 individuals who came to autopsy from one of two longitudinal aging cohorts, we observed that an individual's PRS was associated with cognitive decline and brain pathologies including beta-amyloid, tau-tangles, hippocampal sclerosis, and TDP-43, MIR132, four proteins including VGF, IGFBP5, and STX1A, and many chromosomal regions decorated with acetylation on histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9Ac). While excluding the APOE/TOMM40 region (containing the single largest genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer's dementia) in the calculation of the PRS resulted in a slightly weaker association with the molecular signatures, results remained significant. These PRS-associated brain pathologies and molecular signatures appear to mediate genetic risk, as they attenuated the association of the PRS with cognitive decline. Notably, the PRS induced changes in H3K9Ac throughout the genome, implicating it in large-scale chromatin changes. Thus, the PRS for Alzheimer's dementia (AD-PRS) showed effects on diverse clinical, molecular, and pathological systems, ranging from the epigenome to specific proteins. These convergent targets of a large number of genetic risk factors for Alzheimer's dementia will help define the experimental systems and models needed to test therapeutic targets, which are expected to be broadly effective in the aging population that carries diverse genetic risks for Alzheimer's dementia.