APOE and BCHE as modulators of cerebral amyloid deposition: a florbetapir PET genome-wide association study

Mol Psychiatry. 2014 Mar;19(3):351-7. doi: 10.1038/mp.2013.19. Epub 2013 Feb 19.


Deposition of amyloid-β (Aβ) in the cerebral cortex is thought to be a pivotal event in Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathogenesis with a significant genetic contribution. Molecular imaging can provide an early noninvasive phenotype, but small samples have prohibited genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of cortical Aβ load until now. We employed florbetapir ((18)F) positron emission tomography (PET) imaging to assess brain Aβ levels in vivo for 555 participants from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI). More than six million common genetic variants were tested for association to quantitative global cortical Aβ load controlling for age, gender and diagnosis. Independent genome-wide significant associations were identified on chromosome 19 within APOE (apolipoprotein E) (rs429358, P=5.5 × 10(-14)) and on chromosome 3 upstream of BCHE (butyrylcholinesterase) (rs509208, P=2.7 × 10(-8)) in a region previously associated with serum BCHE activity. Together, these loci explained 15% of the variance in cortical Aβ levels in this sample (APOE 10.7%, BCHE 4.3%). Suggestive associations were identified within ITGA6, near EFNA5, EDIL3, ITGA1, PIK3R1, NFIB and ARID1B, and between NUAK1 and C12orf75. These results confirm the association of APOE with Aβ deposition and represent the largest known effect of BCHE on an AD-related phenotype. BCHE has been found in senile plaques and this new association of genetic variation at the BCHE locus with Aβ burden in humans may have implications for potential disease-modifying effects of BCHE-modulating agents in the AD spectrum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics*
  • Aniline Compounds
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics*
  • Butyrylcholinesterase / genetics*
  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / genetics
  • Ethylene Glycols
  • Female
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plaque, Amyloid / diagnostic imaging
  • Plaque, Amyloid / metabolism*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • White People / genetics


  • Aniline Compounds
  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Ethylene Glycols
  • florbetapir
  • Butyrylcholinesterase