Polygenic Scores of Alzheimer's Disease Risk Genes Add Only Modestly to APOE in Explaining Variation in Amyloid PET Burden

Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Brain accumulation of amyloid-β is a hallmark event in Alzheimer's disease (AD) whose underlying mechanisms are incompletely understood. Case-control genome-wide association studies have implicated numerous genetic variants in risk of clinically diagnosed AD dementia. OBJECTIVE: To test for associations between case-control AD risk variants and amyloid PET burden in older adults, and to assess whether a polygenic measure encompassing these factors would account for a large proportion of the unexplained variance in amyloid PET levels in the wider population. METHODS: We analyzed data from the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging (MCSA) and the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). Global cortical amyloid PET burden was the primary outcome. The 38 gene variants from Wightman et al. (2021) were analyzed as predictors, with PRSice-2 used to assess the collective phenotypic variance explained. RESULTS: Known AD risk variants in APOE, PICALM, CR1, and CLU were associated with amyloid PET levels. In aggregate, the AD risk variants were strongly associated with amyloid PET levels in the MCSA (p = 1.51×10-50) and ADNI (p = 3.21×10-64). However, in both cohorts the non-APOE variants uniquely contributed only modestly (MCSA = 2.1%, ADNI = 4.4%) to explaining variation in amyloid PET levels. CONCLUSION: Additional case-control AD risk variants added only modestly to APOE in accounting for individual variation in amyloid PET burden, results which were consistent across independent cohorts with distinct recruitment strategies and subject characteristics. Our findings suggest that advancing precision medicine for dementia may require integration of strategies complementing case-control approaches, including biomarker-specific genetic associations, gene-by-environment interactions, and markers of disease progression and heterogeneity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1615-1625
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • amyloid
  • Apolipoprotein E
  • polygenic risk scores
  • positron emission tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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