Impact of KIBRA Polymorphism on Memory Function and the Hippocampus in Older Adults

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2016 Feb;41(3):781-90. doi: 10.1038/npp.2015.203. Epub 2015 Jul 9.


The single nucleotide polymorphism rs17070145 within the KIBRA gene (kidney and brain expressed protein) has been associated with variations in memory functions and related brain areas. However, previous studies yielded conflicting results, which might be due to divergent sample characteristics or task-specific effects. Therefore, we aimed to determine the impact of KIBRA genotype on learning and memory formation, and volume, microstructural integrity and functional connectivity (FC) of the hippocampus and its subfields in a well-characterized cohort of healthy older adults. One-hundred and forty subjects (72 women, age 50-80) were KIBRA genotyped and memory was tested using the Auditory Verbal Learning Task. Also, subjects underwent structural and resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging at 3T. Subfields were delineated using automated segmentation (FreeSurfer software). Microstructural integrity was measured using mean diffusivity (MD) derived from diffusion tensor images. Seed-based analyses were used to assess FC patterns of the hippocampus. KIBRA T-allele carriers showed a trend for better memory performance, and in the hippocampus significantly higher volumes and partly lower MD, indicative for better microstructure, compared with non-T-allele carriers in the cornu ammonis (CA)2/3 and CA4/dentate gyrus subfields (all P⩽0.008, Bonferroni corrected). Also, T-allele carriers exhibited lower FC of the left hippocampus with areas outside the synchronized HC network. In sum, we could show for the first time that older T-allele carriers exhibited larger volumes and better microstructure within those hippocampus subfields that are implicated in long-term potentiation and neurogenesis, key features of memory processes. Moreover, T-allele carriers showed a more selective FC network of the hippocampus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Genotyping Techniques
  • Heterozygote
  • Hippocampus / anatomy & histology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics*
  • Learning
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Organ Size
  • Phosphoproteins / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Rest


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • WWC1 protein, human