Background: Although genome-wide association studies have shown that genetic factors increase the risk of suffering late-onset, sporadic Alzheimer's disease (SAD), the molecular mechanisms responsible remain largely unknown.
Objective: The aim of the study was to investigate the presence of somatic, brain-specific single nucleotide variations (SNV) in the hippocampus of SAD samples.
Methods: By using bioinformatic tools, we compared whole exome sequences in paired blood and hippocampal genomic DNAs from 17 SAD patients and from 2 controls and 2 vascular dementia patients.
Results: We found a remarkable number of SNVs in SAD brains (~575 per patient) that were not detected in blood. Loci with hippocampus-specific (hs)-SNVs were common to several patients, with 38 genes being present in 6 or more patients out of the 17. While some of these SNVs were in genes previously related to SAD (e.g., CSMD1, LRP2), most hs-SNVs occurred in loci previously unrelated to SAD. The most frequent genes with hs-SNVs were associated with neurotransmission, DNA metabolism, neuronal transport, and muscular function. Interestingly, 19 recurrent hs-SNVs were common to 3 SAD patients. Repetitive loci or hs-SNVs were underrepresented in the hippocampus of control or vascular dementia donors, or in the cerebellum of SAD patients.
Conclusion: Our data suggest that adult blood and brain have different DNA genomic variations, and that somatic genetic mosaicism and brain-specific genome reshaping may contribute to SAD pathogenesis and cognitive differences between individuals.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; exome sequencing; somatic variations.