Objective: Apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotypes are associated with variable risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD), with APOE epsilon 4 (APOE ε4) having higher risk. A variable poly-T length polymorphism at rs10524523, within intron 6 of the translocase of the outer mitochondrial membrane (TOMM40) gene, has been shown to influence age of onset in LOAD, with very long (VL) poly-T length associated with earlier disease onset, and short poly-T length associated with later onset. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that brain and cognitive changes suggestive of presymptomatic LOAD may be associated with this TOMM40 polymorphism.
Methods: Among healthy APOE ε3 homozygous adults (N = 117; mean age, 55 years), we compared those who were homozygous for VL/VL (n = 35) TOMM40 poly-T lengths (who were presumably at higher risk) with those homozygous for short (S/S; n = 38) poly-T lengths, as well as those with heterozygous (S/VL; n = 44) poly-T length polymorphisms, on measures of learning and memory and on structural brain imaging.
Results: The VL/VL group showed lower performance than the S/S TOMM40 group on primacy retrieval from a verbal list learning task, a finding which is also seen in early Alzheimer's disease. A dose-dependent increase in the VL TOMM40 polymorphism (from no VL alleles, to S/VL heterozygous, to VL/VL homozygous) was associated with decreasing gray matter volume in the ventral posterior cingulate and medial ventral precuneus, a region of the brain affected early in LOAD.
Conclusions: These findings among APOE ε3/ε3 late middle-aged adults suggest that a subgroup with VL TOMM40 poly-T lengths may be experiencing incipient LOAD-related cognitive and brain changes.
Published by Elsevier Inc.