Objectives: Mutations in the GBA gene occur in 7% of patients with Parkinson disease (PD) and are a well-established susceptibility factor for PD, which is characterized by Lewy body disease (LBD) neuropathologic changes (LBDNCs). We sought to determine whether GBA influences risk of dementia with LBDNCs, Alzheimer disease (AD) neuropathologic changes (ADNCs), or both.
Methods: We screened the entire GBA coding region for mutations in controls and in subjects with dementia and LBDNCs and no or low levels of ADNCs (pure dementia with Lewy bodies [pDLB]), LBDNCs and high-level ADNCs (LBD-AD), and high-level ADNCs but without LBDNCs (AD).
Results: Among white subjects, pathogenic GBA mutations were identified in 6 of 79 pDLB cases (7.6%), 8 of 222 LBD-AD cases (3.6%), 2 of 243 AD cases (0.8%), and 3 of 381 controls (0.8%). Subjects with pDLB and LBD-AD were more likely to carry mutations than controls (pDLB: odds ratio [OR] = 7.6; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.8-31.9; p = 0.006; LBD-AD: OR = 4.6; CI = 1.2-17.6; p = 0.025), but there was no significant difference in frequencies between the AD and control groups (OR = 1.1; CI = 0.2-6.6; p = 0.92). There was a highly significant trend test across groups (χ(2)(1) = 19.3; p = 1.1 × 10(-5)), with the likelihood of carrying a GBA mutation increasing in the following direction: control/AD < LBD-AD < pDLB.
Conclusions: GBA is a susceptibility gene across the LBD spectrum, but not in AD, and appears to convey a higher risk for PD and pDLB than for LBD-AD. PD and pDLB might be more similar to one another in genetic determinants and pathophysiology than either disease is to LBD-AD.