Polygenic coronary artery disease association with brain atrophy in the cognitively impaired

Eric de Silva, Carole H. Sudre, Josephine Barnes, Marzia A. Scelsi, Andre Altmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


While a number of low-frequency genetic variants of large effect size have been shown to underlie both cardiovascular disease and dementia, recent studies have highlighted the importance of common genetic variants of small effect size, which, in aggregate, are embodied by a polygenic risk score. We investigate the effect of polygenic risk for coronary artery disease on brain atrophy in Alzheimer's disease using whole-brain volume and put our findings in context with the polygenic risk for Alzheimer's disease and presumed small vessel disease as quantified by white-matter hyperintensities. We use 730 subjects from the Alzheimer's disease neuroimaging initiative database to investigate polygenic risk score effects (beyond APOE) on whole-brain volumes, total and regional white-matter hyperintensities and amyloid beta across diagnostic groups. In a subset of these subjects (N = 602), we utilized longitudinal changes in whole-brain volume over 24 months using the boundary shift integral approach. Linear regression and linear mixed-effects models were used to investigate the effect of white-matter hyperintensities at baseline as well as Alzheimer's disease-polygenic risk score and coronary artery disease-polygenic risk score on whole-brain atrophy and whole-brain atrophy acceleration, respectively. All genetic associations were examined under the oligogenic (P = 1e-5) and the more variant-inclusive polygenic (P = 0.5) scenarios. Results suggest no evidence for a link between the polygenic risk score and markers of Alzheimer's disease pathology at baseline (when stratified by diagnostic group). However, both Alzheimer's disease-polygenic risk score and coronary artery disease-polygenic risk score were associated with longitudinal decline in whole-brain volume (Alzheimer's disease-polygenic risk score t = 3.3, PFDR = 0.007 over 24 months in healthy controls) and surprisingly, under certain conditions, whole-brain volume atrophy is statistically more correlated with cardiac polygenic risk score than Alzheimer's disease-polygenic risk score (coronary artery disease-polygenic risk score t = 2.1, PFDR = 0.04 over 24 months in the mild cognitive impairment group). Further, in our regional analysis of white-matter hyperintensities, Alzheimer's disease-polygenic risk score beyond APOE is predictive of white-matter volume in the occipital lobe in Alzheimer's disease subjects in the polygenic regime. Finally, the rate of change of brain volume (or atrophy acceleration) may be sensitive to Alzheimer's disease-polygenic risk beyond APOE in healthy individuals (t = 2, P = 0.04). For subjects with mild cognitive impairment, beyond APOE, a more inclusive polygenic risk score including more variants, shows coronary artery disease-polygenic risk score to be more predictive of whole-brain volume atrophy, than an oligogenic approach including fewer larger effect size variants.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfcac314
JournalBrain Communications
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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